Tour operators must immediately stop offering one-day tours departing from Taipei or Kaohsiung to Chiayi’s Alishan (阿里山), Nantou County’s Cingjing Farm (清境農場), Taichung’s Wuling Farm (武陵農場), Hsinchu County’s Smangus Village (司馬庫斯), Pingtung County’s Kenting (墾丁) and Hualien, the Tourism Bureau said yesterday.
The tours are deemed “high-risk” as drivers must spend long hours on the road and face uncertain conditions to reach their destinations, Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰) said.
The bureau made the announcement after meeting with representatives of the Directorate-General of Highways, the Ministry of Labor, the Travel Quality Assurance Association and consumer protection agencies to assess the one-day tour industry.
Photo: Lin Cheng-kung, Taipei Times
Tour operators must stop offering such tours or face fines of between NT$10,000 and NT$50,000.
In addition, domestic tours that leave early in the morning and return late at night must have two drivers taking turns, Chang said, adding that should operators have trouble meeting that stipulation, they must change tour itineraries or have travelers use public transport systems.
If the bus is the only means of transportation during a tour, drivers may not drive more than 300km per day on ordinary roads and 200km per day in mountainous areas, he said.
Should the trip involve both ordinary and mountain roads, the driving distance would be limited to 200km per day, he said.
Other agreements reached at the meeting include a complete ban on the so-called “zero-fee” tours, in which tour operators are compensated by collecting commission from shop owners that travel groups visit, he said.
The Travel Quality Assurance Association should quickly make public a reasonable price range for various one-day tours, Chang said.
Tour operators would be given guidelines for the design of domestic tours, which include giving tour bus drivers adequate time to rest, he said.
The guidelines also stipulate that tour operators must assess the type of tour bus, and whether it is to travel on any of the roads the Directorate-General of Highways deems dangerous.
The bureau said it has identified more than 100 domestic tours whose operators have been asked to explain how they are going to transport travelers.
According to the bureau, only 20 high-risk domestic tours are still on the market.
Tour operators should offer consumers full refunds for one-day tours purchased for the 228 Memorial Day holiday if their tours are deemed high-risk and then canceled, Consumer Protection Committee senior ombudsman Wang Te-ming (王德明) said.
“If tour operators are asked to remove those tours, that means there were risks in offering them. Based on their standard contracts with consumers, tour operators should refund consumers if they are at fault for disrupting travel plans by providing high-risk products,” Wang said.
“Should tour operators want to raise tour prices if their operational costs increase, they would have to renegotiate the contract with consumers. If consumers refuse to accept the terms of the contract, tour operators should refund their money,” he said.
“Tour operators, on the other hand, can always choose to absorb the costs to redeem people’s confidence after the freeway accident last week,” he added.
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