Fri, May 30, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Travel industry picking up

By Kevin Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The SARS-battered travel industry may be breathing a sigh of relief after agents reported better-than-expected travel bookings to Phuket and Bali over the past few days.

"People are getting tired of staying at home and thinking they really want to travel," said Lee Lo-sheng (李羅生), a sales manager at Longwaytour Travel Service Ltd (明泰旅行社) in Taipei.

Last week Longwaytour booked 190 passengers on its NT$11,900-budget travel package to Phuket, Li said. To drive up sales for the Dragon Boat Festival on June 4, the company this week launched a NT$12,300-package to Bali and has seen a positive response from tourists, he added.

In partnership with the nation's biggest international carrier, China Airlines Co (華航), Longwaytour is offering the four-night package at Phuket's five-star Laguna Beach Resort, including free breakfast. Trips are scheduled for May 31, June 4, 8, 12 and 16. As for its Bali getaway -- scheduled to fly the same dates -- travellers will stay four nights at the Intercontinental Resort Bali, with free breakfast.

Compared with other standard packages priced an average NT$27,900 in the past, these budget offers may affect the company's bottom line.

"Getting people back traveling is the precondition for rebuilding confidence in the industry," Lee said.

Another industry veteran observed outbound tourist bookings started to pick up earlier this week after government officials assured the public the epidemic has stabilized and people may return to their normal lives.

"We saw the number of [overseas] bookings at 406 on May 26," Frank Chen (陳豐續), president of the Lion Travel Ltd (雄獅旅行社). "The number continued to rise to 431 and 597 people in the following two days."

Lion Travel is currently cooperating with EVA Airways Corp (長榮) to offer full-package group tours to Bali's Denpasar, Indonesia for NT$9,900 to NT$15,900. Other package discounts are also available to Europe, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

Lion's daily sales surge to NT$12.87 million on Wednesday, about five-fold of its averaged daily sales during the first four weeks of the month.

"The situation is turning better as the number of new SARS cases decreases," Chen said.

Lion Travel expects tourist bookings will back to around 80 percent of what they used to be during summer holidays.

The Travel Agent Association ROC (中華民國旅行公會), which represents some 2,500 travel agencies nationwide, will ask member companies to work out plans with airlines in encouraging Taiwanese to travel to non-SARS affected countries, while cooperating with local hotels to boost domestic tours, association secretary-general Roget Hsu (許高慶) said.

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