Hujing, a small island off the coast of Taiwan, is trying to attract tourism and boost the local economy by transforming the region into a cat-paradise. Various artwork related to cats is also being installed throughout the island.
Hujing has a very low population of around 200 people, most of whom are aging. As such, the islanders believe that if they don’t find a way to bring in revenues, they are going to be in big trouble financially a few years from now.
While the elders were thinking of ways to lure tourists, it was actually six students from the community school that came up with the idea of turning the island into a cat lover’s destination.
“The students hoped to create a series of cat island projects based on caring about the cats on the island, as well as helping local tourism development… They also turn photos of the cats of Hujing into postcard sales, and then use the proceeds of the charity as a fund for cat food and veterinarian fees,” Lin Yan-ling, Principal of the Hujing Elementary School, said to ABC News.
Despite the hard work of the villagers, they have a big challenge ahead of them — Houtong. Located very close to Taipei, Houtong is already a famous destination for cat enthusiasts and reportedly pulls in about a million visitors every year. To make matters worse, reaching Hujing involves an hour-long flight and a boat ride. In contrast, a tourist only needs to take a short train trip from Taipei to reach Houtong.
Despite such disadvantages, the locals are hopeful that their efforts won’t go to waste and that their island will eventually attract a sizeable number of tourists.
Destinations for lovers of cats
Taiwan is not the only country to boast of destinations that specifically target cat lovers. There are many such places all over the world, with the most famous being Tashirojima Island in Japan.
“Cats have long been thought by the locals to represent luck and good fortune, and doubly so if you feed and care for them. Thus, the cats are treated like kings, and although most are feral because keeping them as ‘pets’ is generally considered inappropriate, they are well-fed and well-cared-for,” according to Atlas Obscura.
While the island once had a population of 1,000 people, it declined drastically following World War I. According to estimates, about 83 percent of the barely 100 people who currently live on the island are over 65 years of age. Almost every trade involves some kind of activity to do with cat tourism.
In Italy, the Largo di Torre Argentina is famed for its cat population. The place was the site of Julius Caesar’s assassination and was excavated in 1929. Shortly thereafter, cats began occupying the place with the result that more than 250 cats populate the site at present. Tourists who visit Largo di Torre Argentina almost always make it a point to check out the site and socialize with the cats.
For fans of Hemingway, a visit to his home (now a museum) in Key West, Florida, gives a chance to mingle with the descendants of the cats that the author himself raised. The felines freely roam the grounds of the property. Interestingly, almost half of the cats have extra toes on their paws.