Tourism industry asks for government help to boost tourism

Numerous tourism-related trade associations demanded the government Wednesday to provide financial support and policy leeway to help them survive a recent slide in the number of arriving Chinese group tourists, a major market base upon which they rely.

Announcing a rally set for Sept. 12, expected to involve some 10,000 tourism operators to demand better business opportunities in the wake of the Chinese tourist drop since President Tsai Ing-wen (???) took office in May, the associations said they want backups from the government.

Jessica Yu (???), secretary of the Hotel Association of the Republic of China, said hotel and bed and breakfast operators struggling financially hope that the government will offer them loan extensions.

The hotel occupancy rate has dropped by 50 percent recently, with those in central, southern and eastern Taiwan the hardest-hit, Yu said.

Chang Tien-tsai (???), secretary-general of the National Joint Association of Buses for Tourists of the Republic of China, said that around 80 percent of a total of 16,000 tourist buses in the country are currently idle due to the lack of Chinese tourists, and that the resource should be directed toward public transportation.

As for some 10,000 Chinese-speaking tour guides who rely on the job for a living, only 2,000 of them are able to maintain steady financial resources, and the Tourist Guide Association said they could be referred to national scenic areas to serve local tourists.

Association Chairman Wu Yong-yi (???) said it would be a good idea if every Chinese-speaking tour guide is accompanied by a new immigrant who speaks one or more Southeast Asian languages to expand the customer base.

Overall, the government needs to help the tourism industry become more competitive -- including launching promotional campaigns in China and offering visa-free treatment for all Southeast Asian countries -- said Ringo Lee (???), spokesman of the Travel Agent Association of the R.O.C. Taiwan.

So far, Taiwan has granted visa-waiver treatment to citizens of four Southeast Asian countries -- Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Brunei.

From Sept. 1, citizens of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar can apply online for visas to enter Taiwan if they already hold valid visas or resident permits for the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Schengen area or South Korea in Taiwan's streamlined visa application procedure, as part of its efforts to deepen ties and exchanges with the region.

In 2015, Taiwan recorded 10,439,785 foreign visitor arrivals, 4,184,102 of which were from China, official data shows.

Since the new government took office in Taiwan in May, however, there has been a 30 percent decline year-on-year in the number of Chinese tourists on group tours to Taiwan.

In July alone, Chinese visitor numbers were down 15.03 percent year-on-year, after falling about 12 percent in May and June.

The Sept. 12 march will start at 1 p.m. at the Huashan 1914 creative park and end at around 5 p.m. on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office, Lee said.

He said the campaign does not intend to press the government to acknowledge the "1992 Consensus," which refers to a tacit understanding reached between Taiwan -- then under a Kuomintang government -- and China in 1992 that there is only one China, with both sides free to interpret what that means.

Since the consensus has not been acknowledged by the Tsai administration, there has been speculation that the Chinese government has been curtailing the number of Chinese tour groups it allows to travel to Taiwan.

But Lee denied that the tourist drop is a result of Beijing's intervention, saying that it is the Taiwanese public's hostility toward China that has kept Chinese from visiting Taiwan.

"We need to stop using smearing language about Chinese people, especially on the Internet," he said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel