When Charlies Liu quit his civil service job with the Kaohsiung City Government and returned to the place where he grew up so he could be with his ailing mother, he did not think he would soon be embarking on a new career in the tourism industry, and that within a decade he would have hosted visitors from more than 40 countries.
In November 2003, on land that has belonged to his family for
more than 80 years, Liu opened Small Swiss Homestay, a lodging
establishment with four rooms and mountain views. Located in a
tea-growing district in Chiayi County, southern Taiwan, not far from
Alishan National Forest Recreation Area, Small Swiss Homestay is in many
ways a typical minsu, as bed-and-breakfast (B&B) establishments are known in Chinese.
Over the past decade, Taiwan’s tourism industry has transformed
significantly. Perhaps few of the changes have enhanced the travel
experience more than the proliferation of minsu. In these small
lodges, guests can stay in a family-run establishment and enjoy a blend
of informal hospitality, local knowledge and natural scenery that few
hotels can match. Liu, for instance, takes many of his guests to
Fenqihu, a nearby town famous for its quaint character, and Yushan
National Park, where they can see Taiwan’s highest peak.
Until December 2001, when the Regulations for the Management of Home Stay Facilities were issued, minsu
existed without a legal framework. The regulations define “a home stay
facility” as “a lodging facility run as a family sideline business,
using the spare rooms of a self-used residence to provide tourists with a
rural living experience.”
In practice, while many homestay businesses
match these criteria closely, quite a number are purpose-built
accommodations that provide the family’s main source of income. Most of
these latter establishments are fairly modest, though, and retain the
personalized service of a family-run business. The rules state that such
operations should have “no more than five guest rooms, with a total
floor area of no more than 150 square meters,” although local
governments can authorize up to 15 rooms for homestays with “specific
tourism features” such as those located on a tourist farm or in a remote
To be licensed, a B&B must satisfy fire safety rules and
undergo inspections that check, among other things, whether each “guest
room and bathroom [has] adequate ventilation and ... sufficient light,”
according to the website of the Tourism Bureau under the Ministry of
Transportation and Communications. Operators must purchase insurance,
and cannot be individuals with convictions for drug, firearm-related,
sexual or other serious criminal offenses.
Since the regulations came into force, the number of fully
licensed establishments has been growing nonstop. According to
statistics issued by the Tourism Bureau, new minsu registered with the authorities at a rate of more than one per day between 2004 and 2008.
“At the end of September 2012, the national total of legal B&Bs
was 3,619,” says Chen Yu-chuan, director of the bureau’s Hotel
Inspection and Supervision Center. This central government unit oversees
Taiwan’s homestay industry, but local governments are responsible for
day-to-day enforcement. “City and county governments do from time to
time, in accordance with the provisions, carry out inspections of
B&Bs,” Chen says, adding that violations, such as a lack of
firefighting equipment, are dealt with as dictated by the law.
“The Tourism Bureau offers operators of legal B&Bs guidance
so they can upgrade their services. The bureau has also held many
business management classes, and granted money to local governments and
industry associations so they can organize workshops,” Chen says...
The entire article, which appears in the February edition of Taiwan Review, can be read online.
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