COVID-19: The ministry analyzed videos worth 90 million US dollars

Ministry of Transportation invested COVID-19 relief fund in reviewing unpopular VR videos to promote tourism, said Ann Kao, TPP lawmaker

  • By Hsieh Chun-lin and Kayleigh Madjar / Staff Reporter, with staff

Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) lawmaker Ann Kao (高 虹 安) yesterday accused the Ministry of Transport and Communications of squandering public funds after the ministry invested US $ 90 million (US $ 3.2 million). US dollars) in COVID-19 aid fund to make virtual reality (VR) travel videos to promote a “new model of tourism.”

The ministry, in collaboration with Taiwan AI Labs, created the Taiwan Traveler website earlier this year with 360-degree interactive videos of popular events and tourist destinations.

Aiming to provide a home travel experience for domestic and foreign tourists, the site was launched with videos of the Dajia Matsu (大甲 媽祖 遶 境) pilgrimage, Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) in Nantou County and Alishan (阿里山).

The project was paid for through the government’s special budget for the reduction of COVID-19; funds that should have been used to alleviate the pandemic, Kao said in a video statement.

Instead, they were used with an idea that doesn’t understand real trends, “it just serves to waste hard-earned money,” he said.

Kao said he understands that the ministry wants to promote digital tourism, but the essential purpose of tourism is not only to allow people to see the world, but to energize local economies and enhance their prestige.

“When we spend so much on technology that it does so little for physical tourism, is that not putting the cart in front of the horse?” she asked.

He also questioned the purpose of the videos, saying trying to generate travel demand during a pandemic is not the best time.

The incident is reminiscent of “Umaji,” another failed ministerial project last year, he said.

After spending $ 150 million on the app aimed at integrating modes of transportation, the ministry quietly withdrew it, Kao said.

The Tourist Office’s YouTube channel has some quality videos, some of which have received hundreds of thousands of views, he said.

However, its most recent uploads, especially 360-degree videos, have only garnered a few hundred views, he added, questioning the point of revisiting the same types of unpopular videos from the Taiwan Traveler project.

Kao said he has found that many government agencies suffer from this technological myth.

They follow Kao, who pursue digitization through programs with massive budgets without clarifying real needs or intentions.

“Digital transformation” is not about sloganing or spending money, he said, adding that not understanding trends only means wasting money.

The ministry yesterday defended its “open platform for immersive films” as a leading global initiative designed to help the post-pandemic travel industry.

Because the development of tourism during a pandemic requires future strategies, the ministry has adopted several strategies to help the industry withstand the storm, he said.

People’s lifestyles and employment and consumption habits are moving rapidly online, he added, adding that traditional markets would not recover if they were not prepared in advance.

Several local businesses are already planning to design excursions through the site to prepare the new tourism model, he said.

The ministry said it created the Taiwan Traveler platform to “set an example for the digital transformation of domestic tourism.”

Additional reports by Chen Hsin-yu

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