Sat, Sep 02, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Consumers' Foundation blasts Tourism Bureau over Miramar Garden's pricing

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Consumers' Foundation (消基會) yesterday lambasted the Tour-ism Bureau for failing to take into account consumers' interests when signing a 50-year build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract with Miramar Garden Taipei.

BOT deals should include public welfare schemes to benefit the public instead of businesses, the foundation's chairman Jason Lee (李鳳翱) told the Taipei Times in a phone interview.

He said the foundation would submit a proposal to the Taipei City Government's consumer protection center soon, demanding that it intervene to solve the controversy and safeguard consumers' rights.

The foundation's criticism came in the wake of the criticisms that the nation's first mid-range hotel constructed under the BOT model was not price-friendly at all.

The controversy has been brewing for months since the hotel formally opened its doors for business in late May.

According to the contract Mira-mar Garden chairman Huang Chun-fu (黃春福) signed with the bureau at the end of 2003, the hotel must cap its annual average room rate -- excluding breakfast and service fees -- at NT$2,300 a day for the first three years of operation.

However, room rates listed on its Web site are all above NT$4,000.

The Tourism Bureau plans to check Miramar Garden Taipei's account book at the end of the month, a bureau official said in response to the criticism.

The bureau was preparing to issue an official document this weekend requiring the hotel to offer a yearly room rate report within one month, the official said on condition of anonymity during a telephone interview.

The hotel's management reiter-ated that it had complied with the contract as its average room rate, including peak and low season rates, meet the official requirement.

"Prices offered to travel agencies could be quite low. What consumers see on our Web site are for individual guests and include service charges, breakfast and other items," said a hotel official, who declined to be identified.

He said the bureau should bear the responsibility for the ongoing hassle as the contract stipulates a different definition of average room rate.

According to the common practice, the average room rate is derived from total room revenues divided by the number of guest rooms sold during the same period.

However, the contract states that the average room rate should be derived from total room revenues divided by the number of total guest rooms, the hotel official said.

This means that if the occupancy rate is low, the hotel can meet the NT$2,300 requirement by raising its room rates.

Although the bureau refused to accept such an argument, neither party was willing to make public the content of the contract.

The bureau stressed that it would keep a close eye on the hotel's pricing policy and if the hotel did break the contract, the government could choose to terminate the contract and take over the facility, bureau Director-General Hsu Wen-sheng (許文聖) said on Wednesday.

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