Mon, Sep 12, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Letting go of Chinese tour groups

By Fan Shih-ping 范世平

Tourism industry operators were scheduled to hold a rally today to demand that the government address the declining number of Chinese tourists. If they are only concerned with their own selfish interests rather than the public interest, or if the protest deteriorates into a standoff between the pan-blue and the pan-green camps, it would lose much of its legitimacy. It would then be a repetition of last week’s disastrous demonstration by civil servants, public-school teachers and military personnel; a venting of anger that would not receive wide public support.

The tour operators preparing to take to the streets have a vested interest — most of them are the same people who have benefited from the opening up of Taiwan’s tourism industry to Chinese tourists over the past eight years. They were quiet when they were raking in cash, but now that the easy money has dried up, they are taking to the streets: Where is the logic in that?

These operators should not have hitched themselves to the “one-dragon” wagon — Chinese companies organizing the transportation, shopping, meals, accommodation and other services catering to Chinese tour groups — but instead embraced a fairer model allowing more Taiwanese to benefit from the influx of Chinese tourists — thus showing the supposed superiority of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) cross-strait policy.

If they had done that, perhaps the Democratic Progressive Party would not have won the election and those in the tourism industry would have been able to continue silently enriching themselves. They only have themselves to blame.

In addition, why are the tour operators directing their protests at President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) government? Tsai’s administration has not placed any restrictions on the number of tourists that come to Taiwan. To this day, China still refuses to admit that it has imposed limits on Chinese tourists visiting the nation, instead saying the reduction is the result of “market forces.”

In addition, from January to July, the total number of Chinese tourists coming to Taiwan actually increased by 0.4 percent year-on-year. It is the tour groups — not the number of Chinese tourists — that have decreased.

In the May-to-July period, with Tsai taking office in May, the number of independent Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan increased by 12 percent annually. Tour operators should be asking themselves why Chinese tourists have chosen to come independently instead of in tour groups.

On July 19, a Chinese tour group’s bus caught fire; 26 tourists lost their lives in the inferno. Last month, last month the number of Chinese tourists abruptly dropped. In fact, since 2008, when Chinese tourists started coming to Taiwan, 390 have been injured and 90 have died. Do tour operators believe there is no connection between the long-standing abnormal business model of their cut-price tour groups and these statistics? Have they even bothered to reflect on this?

On Sept. 2, Taiwan Tourism Association Headquarters director Su Chia-nan (蘇佳男) launched a petition entitled: “Tsai might not want the [so-called] ‘1992-consensus,’ but I do!”

Such a nakedly political demand leaves one wondering whether there is in fact a political force operating behind the wings. Perhaps the protest is even being supported by China. Could it be that the real reason tour operators are taking to the streets today is to force Tsai to accept the “1992 consensus”?

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