Hualien County in Taiwan now struggling after massive earthquake

A Catastrophic Earthquake

Chen Rei-jia, a bed and breakfast owner in Hualien County, Taiwan, survived the 7.4 magnitude earthquake on April 3, which was the largest tremor to hit the island in 25 years. “I’ve never experienced such a strong earthquake in my life. It was truly terrifying,” she recalled.

Tourism Industry in Peril

Hualien’s economy relies heavily on tourism, which accounts for 70% of its revenue. The earthquake led to mass tourist cancellations, leaving restaurants empty and tour bookings nonexistent. For instance, Lai, a restaurant owner near Taroko Gorge, said, “It feels like there’s no end in sight.”

Economic Impact

Local tour guides like Liang Shiun-chu are now working as taxi drivers to make ends meet. The Hualien Hotel Association reports a drastic drop in occupancy levels, down to just 5%. “Around 90% of foreign visitors to Hualien come specifically for Taroko Gorge,” said Howard Yeh, a hostel manager. With the gorge closed, the appeal for tourists has diminished significantly.


Government Response

To aid recovery, the Taiwanese government has introduced support programs, including loan guarantees and subsidies. Starting in July, visitors can receive accommodation subsidies, and tour agencies will get financial incentives. However, locals worry these measures may not suffice.

Long Road to Recovery

Local officials estimate a full recovery could take five to ten years. The damage to infrastructure, including the main road connecting Hualien to Taipei, exacerbates the situation. Despite this, residents like Lai Sui-er remain hopeful, stating, “There is hope. We will find a way.”

Broader Economic Repercussions

The earthquake’s impact extends beyond tourism. Local markets and businesses are suffering as residents’ incomes dwindle. Cheng Wen-zhong, a market vendor, noted, “If tourists don’t come, our business suffers significantly.”

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