Sat, Apr 05, 2014 - Page 13 News List

TRADE PACT SIEGE: Travel sector leaders support accord

QUALITY COUNTS:Tourism industry leaders rejected concerns about potential Chinese incursions into the market, saying local firms stand to benefit from the deal

By Amy Su  /  Staff reporter

Tourism sector business leaders back the controversial service trade pact with China, saying that local hotel operators and travel agencies will benefit from the relaxation of trade barriers due to their high-quality services.

They dismissed worries that Chinese travel agencies would undercut local counterparts with all-in-one services with Chinese hotel and restaurant operators once they launch businesses in Taiwan.

The cross-strait service trade pact has been stuck in the legislature since Taiwan and China signed it in June last year, amid concerns that the deal will cost jobs and hurt the local service industry.

However, Taiwanese travel agencies and hotel operators said they did not expect the worst-case scenarios to happen.

“Many opponents have been misled by incorrect information,” Phoenix Tours International Inc (鳳凰國際旅行社) president Anthony Liao (廖文澄) told the Taipei Times on Thursday.

Under the pact, the nation will allow up to three Chinese travel agencies to enter the local market, and those agencies will only be allowed to offer Taiwanese travelers tour packages in Taiwan, or outbound flight tickets, Liao said.

Under the agreement Chinese travel agencies would be restricted in their provision of any tour packages to Chinese, he said.

In other words, Chinese travel agencies will not directly compete with local agencies, as they are prohibited from offering all-in-one travel packages to Chinese tourists, as some have feared, Liao said.

Taiwanese travel agencies will not face any limits when tapping into China’s tourism sector and many local companies already have ambitious blueprints to enter that huge travel market, Liao said.

As a result, the pact will help local companies open up China’s massive tourism sector and to get more advantages in developing business there, citing the strong competitiveness of service quality in Taiwan’s players, Liao said.

“For Taiwanese travel agencies, even if we are not allowed to offer outbound travel services in the first two years of operation in China, we can still do business with more than 1 billion Chinese,” Liao said.

Taiwan Tourist Hotel Association (觀光旅館商業同業公會) president Lai Cheng-i (賴正鎰) shared Liao’s view.

Lai, who is also the chairman of land developer Shining Group (鄉林集團) and operator of the luxury hotel Lalu (涵碧樓), said the pact would not change more in the hotel sector than the WTO.

That means the nation still does not accept Chinese investment in general hotels, Lai said.

Citing data offered by the Tourism Bureau, there is only one hotel operator in China planning to set up a tourist hotel in the nation, in Kinmen County — which has yet to been launched — since Taiwan first accepted Chinese investments in tourist hotels in 2009, Lai said.

“That reflects the barriers from Chinese investments to Taiwan’s hotel industry, as building a tourist hotel takes relatively high levels of investments,” Lai said.

Lai said the pact may additionally offer a more complete structure for Taiwanese hotel operators’ pace to invest in China, with local operators also capable of introducing funding from Chinese companies to build tourist hotels in Taiwan with higher quality of service.

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