Rethink cross-strait tourism
To turn Taiwan into a big tourist destination and boost his political legacy, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration took the attitude that, as far as Chinese tourists are concerned, “the more the better” and “quantity is more important than quality.”
On one hand, this has caused the quality of tourism in Taiwan to deteriorate rapidly, and from the National Palace Museum to Alishan, the flood of Chinese tourists has crushed infrastructure and the environment, as measures to upgrade protection have not developed in step with tourism. On the other hand, by tolerating the “one-dragon service” — the unified management of Chinese tour groups controlled by Chinese and Hong Kong companies that control the consumption of Chinese tourists in Taiwan — the benefits have been concentrated in the hands of a very small group of people, most of whom are not Taiwanese.
Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office, there have been constant reports that the number of Chinese tourists will shrink.
Although this is not supported by official data, travel agencies, hotels, the food and beverage industry, tour bus operators and others complain that their profits are declining, but this could also be manipulated by the companies running the “one-dragon service.”
At the same time, however, some people now say that “it is easier to breathe without all the Chinese tourists,” a reflection of the complaint among many Taiwanese that Chinese tourists “shit, but lay no eggs” (拉屎不生蛋), ie, bring no benefit.
However, because of China’s controls and the lack of controls in Taiwan, most of the Chinese tourists have no choice in the matter. They have to rely on the “one-dragon service,” and the vile business practice of using low prices to attract customers and then extract commissions on purchases forces them to get up early every morning, eat bad food, go to bed late and always be on the move. At the moment, it seems as if even personal safety is becoming an issue. No matter how you look at it, they lose.
Over the past eight years, the Ma administration ignored these issues, and all the Chinese tourists were good for was to boost the number of visitors and to show off the good cross-strait relationship. Now the bus fire in Taoyuan has highlighted problems with supervision of the industry, and it has also presented us with an opportunity to rethink cross-strait tourism so that it is no longer only about making money, but also respect and understanding. They are first and foremost people, after all, and only then tourists.
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