TSU legislators yesterday urged the government to hand out travel vouchers to the public in a bid to stimulate a tourism industry hogtied by the spread of sever acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Five TSU lawmakers yesterday proposed a NT$8 billion government budget for vouchers that cut the cost of domestic trips by as much as NT$1,500 at a time when many Taiwanese are reluctant to travel for fear of contracting the flu-like virus.
The suggestion was made by the TSU's five-member anti-SARS working group comprising of legislators Lo Chih-ming (羅志明), Liao Pen-yen (廖本煙), Huang Chung-yung (黃宗源), Huang Cheng-che (黃政哲) and Wu Tong-sheng (吳東昇). The group will continue to make daily suggestions to the government to combat SARS.
Lo said yesterday that due to the spread of SARS, check-in rates for hotels in major tourist spots dropped to less than 10 percent of full occupancy, and some hotels have even been forced to close their doors.
"We strongly recommend the government to issue the travel vouches to the public to encourage domestic tours," Lo said.
"Holders of the vouchers could be given a discount of NT$1,000, while those who visit the tourist spots still reeling from the effects of the 921 earthquake could have a NT$1,500 discount," Lo said.
Lo said that although government agencies have canceled many large-scale activities to avoid spreading SARS, the proposal is aimed at assisting the SARS-impacted industry over the long term.
"The vouchers should be good for one year. Therefore when the disease is gradually under control in the second half of the year, the public can still use them," Lo said.
Lo further pointed out that more than 20 countries in the world have issued travel advisories to their nationals to avoid visiting Taiwan, and many of Taiwan's traveling agencies rely on visitors from Hong Kong.
"Travel income from these foreign tourists will drop due to the spread of SARS in Taiwan," Lo said. "If we don't encourage our nationals to make tours in and around the country, our local tourism industry may soon die a slow death."
"The closure of one single hotel could mean 200 extra unemployed. How many people will suffer from job losses due to the SARS virus ?" Lo said.