In Taiwan’s Night Markets, Locals Sip Bubble Tea and Wait for Tourists
(Bloomberg Markets) -- In food-obsessed Taiwan, every city has at least one place to go for oyster omelets and mango shaved ice or local inventions such as coffin bread and bubble tea: a night market. Lined with snack stalls and sometimes spread over multiple streets, these markets are still in business thanks to the island’s deft handling of the pandemic—only 10 deaths and no lockdowns. Indeed, Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking finds Taiwan, with a population of 23 million, to be one of the four best places to live in the world during the pandemic.
But life isn’t quite normal. For example, at the Ningxia Night Market in Taipei, masks and plastic screens are among the precautions used to prevent the virus from spreading. Taiwan banned almost all foreign nationals from visiting a little more than a year ago, a move that helped curb Covid-19 but slammed tourist-reliant businesses and neighborhoods. Total arrivals last year crashed 88%, to only 1.4 million people, and more than half of those came in January 2020 alone. Although some business and diplomatic travel is now allowed, the only tourists permitted as of April 2021 are from tiny Palau, following the opening of a travel bubble.
The island’s export-led recovery may help support domestic spending. In March the central bank raised its 2021 growth forecast to 4.53%, from 3.68%. Taiwan was one of the world’s few significant economies to record growth last year; the lack of local infections allows it to continue running music festivals and events such as the annual LGBTQ pride parade.
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