Sat, Aug 13, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Travel agents vent their anger over tour guides bill

By Lin Chia-chi  /  Staff Reporter

In an effort to stop Chinese tourists vandalizing scenic spots, the Tourism Bureau recently drew up a bill that suggests tour guides be fined up to NT$15,000 if they fail to prevent Chinese tourists vandalizing public property.

The proposed bill is dubbed the “Chao Kengda clause,” in reference to an incident in April 2009 when a Chinese tourist named Chao Kengda (趙根大) carved his name onto the iconic “Queen’s Head” rock formation at Yeliou Geopark on the north coast.

The proposed amendment to Article No. 27 of the Act Governing Tour Guides (導遊管理規則) states that tour guides would be fined between NT$3,000 and NT$15,000 “when executing business related to guiding a tour and seeing tourists that are under that person’s guidance committing acts of vandalism to natural resources or tourism facilities, and not asking them to stop.”

Voicing objection to the proposed amendment, Travel Agent Association chairman Yao Ta-kuang (姚大光) said that the government in the past had not delineated such responsibility to travel agencies and he questioned how the proposed regulation could be enforced and how tour guides were supposed to protect themselves.

Travel Agent Association convener Ke Mu-chou (柯牧洲) said Chinese tourists are known to have bad habits, such as smoking, spitting and carving their names in scenic spots, adding that he had also heard stories of Chinese tourists sitting or lying on exhibits when visiting US or European museums.

Tour guides provide a service and they needs to provide a good quality tour, but if guides also have to “control” tourists who might potentially get out of control, that causes a conflict of interest, Ke said.

“Making a tour guide the collateral damage of the misbehavior of tourists is not fair,” he said, adding that the tour guide is one person against many tourists and is not in a position of authority like the police.

Ke said the Tourism Bureau had not discussed the proposed amendment with tour guides and travel agencies, and he criticized the government’s “black-box” way of working “in which it always resorts to having travel agencies shoulder the responsibility for things it fails to manage.”

Citing an example, Ke said when the government announced the implementation of the free independent travelers program for Chinese tourists on June 28, it wanted travel agencies to take the blame should Chinese tourists go missing in Taiwan.

“The travel industry wishes that the government would take responsibility [for its policies],” Ke said.


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