Wed, May 01, 2013 - Page 8

Park life

In autumn last year, I went to Harpers Ferry, a US national historic park overlooking the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.

The entrance fee is US$10 per single, private vehicle. There is no manned ticket booth.

Instead, I put US$10 in an envelope and deposited it in a mailbox-like structure that collects fees.

It is an honor system, as one does not need any admission slip to enter the park and the unmanned structure has no way to verify whether fees have been paid or not.

I made a point of paying my dues and I am sure most tourists to the area do the same as it is part of the ethical code of conduct in a civilized society.

Such practices are widely applied in many US national parks. The parks are open not only to taxpaying citizens, but also tourists from all over the world.

Although the operation of the parks is primarily supported by federal dollars (that is, taxpayers’ dollars), an admission fee is required to maintain many of the parks’ programs.

Frequent visitors can purchase year-round admission at a higher price, but are then granted unlimited access to all the US’ national parks.

The Ministry of the Interior is planning to charge admission fees to Taiwan’s national parks to maintain quality and deal with the large influx of Chinese tourists.

Some argue that taxpaying Taiwanese should not be shouldering the bill, since maintenance costs are paid with taxpayers’ dollars.

It seems strange to me to hear such an argument since I have never heard taxpayers in the US say: “I don’t want to pay admission for the national parks because I have already paid taxes for it.”

The crux of the issue is the fact that Chinese tourists are not behaving civilly in Taiwan.

Behavior such as urinating or defecating in public areas, spitting and carving into our precious natural beauties, such as 1,000-year-old oak trees, has cast a collective negative impression on Chinese tourists.

Clearly such behavior takes its toll on the maintenance of the parks and serves as one of the primary drivers behind the admission fees proposed by the Ministry of the Interior.

One productive way to address the situation would be to increase the visibility of Taiwan in global society, thereby encouraging more international tourists to visit the beautiful island. Such tourists will properly respect Taiwan’s parks and pay fees to maintain them.

However, the argument that taxpaying Taiwanese should not be paying admission fees to help maintain the parks is small-minded.

Tiffany Hsiao

Rockville, Maryland

No tips, please

I read with great concern the article about promoting tipping in Taiwan (“Bureau promotes tipping by tourists,” April 24, page 3).

Tipping is a very bad American practice. We, as Asians, loathe this kind of practice, because it is an insult to the service profession of a country.

Countries like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and China do not encourage tourists to give tips.

People in the service industry have their own pride and tipping will injure that pride. You can add the service fee into the bill and it does not matter.

Everybody knows that employees of the service industry in Taiwan are very polite and they provide good services without requiring tips.

This is one of the main strengths of the tourism industry in Taiwan and it makes tourists eager to return because of the wonderful treatment they have experienced.

Asking tourists to tip will definitely kill their desire to return to Taiwan. Please do not kill the goose that lays golden eggs.

Besides, tipping an individual will destroy the spirit of camaraderie between hotel staff. How can you be sure that the person who receives the tip will give the tip to an employees’ common fund?

Moreover, can you say that hotel housekeeping staff, who may not receive tips, contribute less than luggage bearers? Seeds of discontent might be sown among hotel employees.

I suggest Tourism Bureau officials, such as Chen Chiung-hua (陳瓊華), visit more “advanced” Asian countries to see what effects tipping will have on a country’s tourism industry.

If Taiwan were to start this kind of practice, I will simply tell my friends that it has become a country not worth visiting due to such debased practices.

Please do not reduce Taiwan to the level of many economically challenged African and South Asian countries. Taiwan has its own pride.

It is not worth degrading yourself for the sake of a few extra cents.

Ooi Hong-Kean

Azabu University, Japan