Tourists can now look for the Travel Quality Assurance Association's (TQAA) seal of approval at a growing selection of souvenir and speciality stores throughout the country.
The new standard, instituted in conjunction with Taiwan's Tourism Bureau, was unveiled yesterday, with 41 participating vendors having been approved by the association.
To qualify, each vendor must put down a deposit that is held against future consumer claims if their products are found to be substandard or their sales tactics dishonest.
According to Hsu Wen-sheng (許文聖), director general of the Tourism Bureau, the guarantee of quality and value offered by the new standard will be a boost to consumer confidence.
However, Hsu lamented the shoddy practices of many businesses currently catering to tourists.
"When I bought a box of apples while visiting Japan, the vendor checked each apple to make sure they were unblemished. Compare this with reports that visitors to La La Shan (拉拉山) were deliberately sold boxes of half-rotten peaches," Hsu said.
Although the new standard has been months in the making, recent reports about Chinese tourists subjected to high-pressure and fraudulent sales tactics has put the issue of unscrupulous vendors in the spotlight, said the association's secretary general Chen I-chuan (陳怡全).
"Among all this negativity in the press about the travel shopping industry, this is a glimmer of light," he said.
More than 90 percent of Taiwan's travel agents belong to the TQAA, but this is the first time that they have extended their seal of approval to shopping outlets.
"We hope that the initial membership of 41 business will grow quickly and eventually lift the general quality of our souvenir and speciality stores," Chen added.
In addition to the recent spate of bad publicity, the Taiwanese tourism industry is also reeling from an 8.8 percent decrease in the number of tourists from August to last month, according to Bureau of Tourism figures.
Industry workers have been quoted as blaming the sharp drop on the frequent anti-Chen Shui-bian (