NEW DELHI • Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je had to engage in damage control after he described Hong Kong as a tiny, boring island.
His controversial comment was made in Bangkok on Wednesday, during an eight-day trip to South-east Asia to promote his city as a tourist destination.
Taipei hopes to attract more visitors from other overseas markets as tourist arrivals from mainland China have fallen amid worsening cross-strait ties, news website EJInsight reported.
Mr Ko had said that while Hong Kong is popular among Thai tourists, he is confident that the number of Thais visiting Taiwan would soon be more than that of those visiting Hong Kong, according to news outlet Focus Taiwan.
When asked about Taiwan's edge over Hong Kong as a tourist destination, Mr Ko said Hong Kong is nothing more than a tiny, boring island with few attractions.
Recounting his own experience, Mr Ko said he has been to Victoria Peak so many times that he has lost count, EJInsight reported.
His aides later explained that the mayor had meant to say that Taipei is more attractive because of its gourmet food, cultural and historic heritage sites, and hot springs in lush mountains, Focus Taiwan reported.
Mr Ko also clarified his remarks the next day, saying the "boring" remark was intended to highlight the fact that Taipei has more to offer to tourists.
He added that the introduction of a visa-free programme for Thai tourists has helped to grow the numbers. Last year, the island received more than 195,640 Thai visitors, compared with about 100,000 annually over the last few years, Focus Taiwan reported.
The number is expected to hit 300,000 this year, Mr Ko said, citing the Thai Travel Agents Association. He also stressed that Taiwan is a fun and interesting place - even its political talk shows on television are entertaining.