Wed, Dec 24, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Nonstop charter flights are hurting tourism: operators

TOURIST DRAINNow that it may be cheaper to spend a weekend in Shanghai than travel to hot tourist spots in Taiwan, hotel operators are facing a cross-strait threat

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

The launch of daily nonstop charter flights between Taiwan and China has effectively cut travel time and cost across the Taiwan Strait, but it could also have a negative impact on domestic tourism, sources in the business sector said.

Industry insiders said on Monday that many small hotels and inns in the Kending National Park area on the Hengchun Peninsula (恆春半島) were facing sluggish advanced bookings — the worst in history.

Rooms at local hotels were almost fully booked as the new year approached last year, sources said, and hotel operators had hoped that the upcoming four-day extended holiday from Jan. 1 to Jan. 4 would generate even stronger momentum.

But those hopes have yet to be realized.

Chung Tien-hui (鍾添輝), who runs an inn in Kending (墾丁) targeting retail clients, said potential occupancy rates for the coming holiday at most of the hotels and bed and breakfasts in the area remained “low” — between 20 percent or 30 percent — even though New Year’s Day is only nine days away.

Chung said the economic slowdown was a factor in the poor advance bookings, but said that the nonstop daily charter flights to China launched on Dec. 15 were part of the problem as well.

The new service has made China-bound travel more affordable and convenient, to the point where a weekend in Shanghai could cost less than a few days in Kending.

A five-day tour from Taiwan to Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, for instance, can cost as little as NT$5,000, less than a two-day trip from other parts of Taiwan to Kending — one of the country’s most popular tourism destinations.

A number of small hotels and homestays have started to fight back, offering 20 percent discounts on accommodation.

There remains concern that if the sluggish economic environment persists, they would also fare poorly during the Lunar New Year holiday, one of the peak periods for domestic travel, when hotels can usually charge premiums for rooms.

Lunar New Year’s Day falls on Jan. 26.

CARRIERS

In related news, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) reported that carriers from Taiwan and China had passenger load factors exceeding 70 percent in the first week of daily nonstop charter flights.

The CAA said five Taiwan-based carriers and seven China-based aviation companies operated nonstop charters during the first week, with the five Taiwanese carriers reporting an average passenger load factor of 73.8 percent during the first week of operations to Monday, with 22,089 of the 29,920 available seats filled.

The seven Chinese airlines sold 11,593 of the 15,964 seats available, for a load factor of 72.6 percent.The launch of daily nonstop charter flights between Taiwan and China has effectively cut travel time and cost across the Taiwan Strait, but it could also have a negative impact on domestic tourism, sources in the business sector said.

Industry insiders said on Monday that many small hotels and inns in the Kending National Park area on the Hengchun Peninsula (恆春半島) were facing sluggish advanced bookings — the worst in history.

Rooms at local hotels were almost fully booked as the new year approached last year, sources said, and hotel operators had hoped that the upcoming four-day extended holiday from Jan. 1 to Jan. 4 would generate even stronger momentum.

But those hopes have yet to be realized.

Chung Tien-hui (鍾添輝), who runs an inn in Kending (墾丁) targeting retail clients, said potential occupancy rates for the coming holiday at most of the hotels and bed and breakfasts in the area remained “low” — between 20 percent or 30 percent — even though New Year’s Day is only nine days away.

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