Sat, Apr 17, 2010 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL : Tourism sector needs wake-up call

Actress Shu Qi (舒淇) recently complained on her blog about the luxury six-star hotel The Lalu (涵碧樓) near Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) in Nantou County.

She wrote that the lake view there was breath-­taking, but the hotel room she stayed in was terrible since the lamp, phone and toilet didn’t work, and despite that, the hotelier charged NT$12,000 (US$383) per night.

She was left “speechless,” although she did compliment the hotel’s service staff, who tried, but failed to solve the problems, and described the staff as “nice.”

After such an unpleasant experience, it is only natural that Shu may think twice before deciding to visit the area again.

It is one thing if consumers decide not to patronize individual “black sheep” businesses. It is another matter altogether for the nation’s tourism regulator to do something to improve the quality of service in the tourism sector to beef up its competitiveness and to ensure that consumers’ rights are protected.

In Shu’s case, many high-quality hoteliers overseas would have moved her into another room or offered a small refund as compensation.

Unfortunately, there seems to be little that the nation’s Tourism Bureau can or would do here.

Ironically, earlier this month, eight officials from the bureau were themselves ripped off on the outlying island of Matsu when they paid more than NT$1,500 for a plate of fish noodles and a bowl of fish ball soup because the small eatery charged per head instead of per order.

Luckily, those officials had the county commissioner to complain to. The majority of tourists, however, can’t do anything but blame their own bad luck if they are short-changed.

Equally outrageous are some of the nation’s motel operators, which not only hike up room rates during the Lunar New Year vacation, but also impose a check-in time limit as late as 11pm rather than their conventional check-in time of 3pm.

The motel operators’ aim to maximize profits during holidays is understandable, but the price shouldn’t be paid by tourists who are already stuck staying at motels because of a room shortage.

However, the Tourism Bureau appears to be less than enthusiastic about improving such inferior service. The examples of poor service given here are just the tip of the tourism-quality iceberg, yet the Tourism Bureau still has high ambitions about attracting inbound tourists and boosting the nation’s tourism revenues.

Stanley Yen (嚴長壽), honorary chairman of the Taiwan Visitors Association (台灣觀光協會), had long urged the government to overhaul the nation’s tourism sector before seeking to attract more overseas tourists, including Chinese tourists.

He had warned that overseas tourists, including Chinese, might easily be disappointed given the sector’s current service quality and infrastructure.

Evidence now shows that Yen is probably right, because many Chinese tourists have begun to lodge complaints. It will be difficult to develop the tourism industry if tourists won’t come back for another visit.

Both the nation’s tourism regulator and operators need a wake-up call, otherwise they may find themselves out of business if they fail to maintain their integrity and instead maintain poor service.

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