Tue, Apr 24, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Tourism Bureau penalizes agency over rat complaint

OUCH Marco Polo Travel Service was fined NT$60,000 following a Chinese tourist's complaint that he was bitten by a rat in a cheap Changhua County hotel

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Tourism Bureau announced yesterday that it has fined Marco Polo Travel Service Co (長鴻旅行社) a total of NT$60,000 (US$1,818) for failing to guard the safety of tourists and to comply with the minimum fee requirement set for Chinese tourists.

The penalty came in the wake of a report that a Chinese tourist was bitten by a rat while he was sleeping at a hotel in Changhua County two weeks ago.

compensation

The tourist originally asked for compensation of NT$100,000 from Marco Polo. But after the mediation of Taiwan's Travel Agent Association (TAA), he agreed to withdraw the demand and accepted NT$60,000 that was offered by the hotel instead.

TAA's secretary-general Hsu Kao-ching (許高慶) said the incident was rare in his 30 years of service in the travel industry.

"I have heard tourists complain about seeing cockroaches and rats in hotels," he said, "but I have never heard anyone complain about being bitten by rats."

Hsu said that their investigation showed that the room rate at the hotel where the Chinese tourist stayed cost NT$500 per night.

This was in violation of tourism regulations that accommodations for travel packages offered to Chinese tourists must exceed NT$1,000 per night.

A series of accidents last year involving Chinese tourists forced the bureau to set clearer guidelines to ensure quality tour packages, including a minimum daily expense of US$80.

Tour buses used to transport Chinese tourists must not be in operation for more than seven years.

To lower the risk of Chinese tourists breaking from the tour group and staying illegally in Taiwan, the bureau also requires travel agents for Chinese tour groups to turn in a deposit of NT$2 million (about US$60,000).

STRIKE

However, these measures have upset some tour bus service providers and travel agents, a number of which are planning to stage a protest in front of the Tourism Bureau today.

Tourism officials and representatives from travel associations held a press conference yesterday to defend their positions.

Tourism Bureau Secretary-General Wu Chao-yen (吳朝彥) said that the bureau was authorized to handle affairs related to Chinese tourists.

Wu added that the Mainland Affairs Council decided to allow the TAA to handle applications from Chinese travel agencies on behalf of government in 2004 after a group of Chinese tourists tried to escape at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

runaways

TAA chairman Johnson Tseng (曾盛海) said that more than 200,000 Chinese tourists have visited Taiwan since 2004, and that since the association was placed in charge of screening Chinese tourists, the rate of Chinese runaways has dropped from 7 percent to 2.5 per 10,000.

Tseng said that attributing the drop in the number of Chinese tourists to the minimum daily expense requirement of US$80 was unreasonable.

"No one will do business that is sure to lose money," he said. "Some travel agents can only charge customers US$30 a day, but they will definitely gain additional revenue somewhere from the tour arrangement."

Tseng added that it was necessary to set stringent standards on tour buses since a majority of Chinese tourists take long-distance trips.

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