ON TWO WHEELS: British travelers’ interest in Taiwan is on the rise, so Ours Travel teamed up with Giant and China Airlines to offer them 12-day cycling adventures
By Tony Phillips / Contributing reporter in London
Taiwan’s popularity as a tourist destination for British travelers has seen a marked increase in the past few years and is set for a further boost with the launch of tours aimed at Britain’s growing number of recreational cyclists.
Ours Travel （我們家旅行社）, the largest Taiwanese travel agent in the UK, has teamed up with bicycle manufacturer Giant Manufacturing Co Ltd （巨大機械） and China Airlines Ltd （中華航空） to offer British cycling enthusiasts the chance to enjoy the myriad delights Taiwan has to offer, and even see for themselves the factory where their own bicycle could well have been made.
Although the Tourism Bureau started promoting cycling holidays to individuals at travel shows in Europe in 2015, Ours Travel is the first operator to offer packages specifically catering for cyclists.
Jing He （何依靜）, a manager at Ours Travel, said that following the success of its Taste of Taiwan tour, which takes travelers to sightseeing hotspots across the nation, the company saw the potential to adapt it for a more niche market.
“With increasing interest in Taiwan as a tourist destination, we decided we needed to develop additional tours to cater for all types of traveler,” she said. “In particular, we met people at shows who wanted to revisit Taiwan and experience it differently. Given this growing interest we thought designing a cycling tour would be perfect.”
However, Ours Travel faced the problem of trying to promote a destination that is still under the radar for many British people, while there is competition from destinations much closer to home.
“Generally, there seems to be a preference for cycling holidays in Europe, as cyclists know what to expect, it’s close and the language barrier is less of an issue,” He said. “To bridge this gap, we thought partnering with Giant Adventure Co Ltd （捷安特旅行社） would help allay some of these issues.”
Giant Adventure is a subsidiary of Giant Manufacturing.
“Giant Adventure was established in 2016 and are very well-known to Taiwanese cycling enthusiasts,” she said. “They operate weekly tours across multiple routes led by English-speaking tour leaders, and most importantly each group has an appointed medical and bike repairs van to accompany them on their whole journey.”
There are two Ours Travel cycling tours, one for people who are less experienced on a bike, while the other is for advanced cyclists. Both take in some of Taiwan’s most spectacular cycle routes and include visits to the nation’s best tourist attractions.
The tours last 12 days and 10 nights. The beginners’-level tour incorporates 179km of cycling, with no more than 35km covered in a single day, and the advanced tour involves 910km of cycling, starting and ending in Taipei.
The tour designed for more advanced cyclists also provides the unique opportunity of visiting Giant, the world’s biggest bicycle manufacturer, in Taichung’s Dajia District （大甲）, to see the production line in action.
A package for intermediate cyclists focusing on the East Rift Valley National Scenic Area （花東縱谷國家風景區） is to be launched in the near future.
Participants in the tours, which commence next month, can fly to Taiwan with China Airlines, which is making provision for cyclists to take their own bikes with them from the UK.
Since the launch of the tours in October, Ours Travel has had inquiries from cycling groups, with members ranging from young professionals to retirees.
“The good thing about the cycling package is that it is accessible to everyone,” He said.
The tours are catering to an increasingly important market. British Cycling, which oversees all forms of cycling in Britain, enjoyed a record year for participation last year. Nearly half a million people took part in at least one of the organization’s recreational cycling programs, a record high and a 62 percent increase from the previous year.
Tourism Bureau figures show that Taiwan is on track to welcome more British tourists than ever this year.
This follows a record-breaking year last year when 64,719 travelers from the UK arrived in Taiwan, an increase of 8.3 percent from the previous year.
Statistics for January to August show that Taiwan welcomed 7 percent more visitors from the UK compared with the same period last year, with 45,059 Britons making the trip.
The UK is the largest European source of visitors to Taiwan, followed by Germany and France. Visitor numbers have no doubt been boosted by the launch of China Airlines’ direct flights from London’s Gatwick Airport to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in December last year, which increased in frequency from four to five a week in March.
China Airlines has been promoting Taiwan as a stopover destination for people traveling to Australia or New Zealand, which would appear to be a smart move.
There are close links between the UK and the two southern hemisphere nations, with large numbers of passengers traveling from Britain to the Antipodes every year to see family and friends, as well as those going as tourists.
EVA Airways Corp （長榮航空） also flies to Taiwan from the UK, offering a daily flight to Taipei from London’s Heathrow Airport, with a stopover in Bangkok.
A cyclist in Yilan County looks toward Turtle Island, also known as Gueishan Island, in an undated photograph. Photo courtesy of the Tourism Bureau