The Tourism Bureau yesterday said it would introduce stricter punishments for travel agencies that fail to comply with guidelines on providing quality tour services following a series of violations that have disrupted order in the market.
Tourism Bureau Deputy Director General David Hsieh (謝謂君) said the bureau would amend the “Guidelines on Arranging Quality Tour Groups in Taiwan for Chinese Tourists” (旅行業接待大陸地區人民來臺觀光旅遊團品質注意事項) and raise the penalty for travel agencies that fail to follow these guidelines.
The names of the violators would not only be posted on the Web site of the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association, the quasi-official organization representing the Tourism Bureau, but they would also be forwarded to Chinese travel agents that help organize tour groups to Taiwan, he said.
Chen Mei-hsiu (陳美秀), a section chief at the bureau, said the bureau had penalized a total of 83 travel agencies since Taiwan opened the door to Chinese tourists in 2008.
Chen cited as an example a case the bureau discovered this year.
“There was this illegal tour guide who was using the name of a legal tour guide to lead a tour group,” Chen said. “We later found out that the travel agency that the legal tour guide was working for had been using his name to form different tour groups.”
Chen said the travel agency was suspended for a year.
She said the bureau hoped that changes to the guidelines would enable the bureau to suspend the business of any travel agency immediately if it committed any major violation, instead of allowing it to accumulate a certain number of demerits first.
Aside from the stricter penalties, Chen said the amendment would require that Chinese travel agencies complete payment of all tour group charges and fees within 45 days after the group leaves Taiwan.
In related developments, the Travel Agent Association (TAA), Travel Quality Assurance Association and Tourist Guide Association — the nation’s three largest tourism associations — yesterday jointly pledged to upgrade quality by ridding the market of unreasonably low-priced tour groups for Chinese travelers.
TAA chairman Yao Ta-kuang (姚大光) said 169 local travel agencies, which account for about 90 percent of the inbound tourism market, had voluntarily signed a self-disciplinary pact to maintain market order, which will take effect next month.
“They [travel agencies] will abide by the regulations that set the daily tour rate for each Chinese tourist at no lower than US$60,” Yao said. “They cannot demand more than 30 percent of the commission in any shopping tour, either.”
Yao said the announcement may in the short term affect the number of Chinese tourists visiting the country, but he said it was the only way to ensure a sustainable development of this tourism segment.
“We would rather attract customers with quality service rather than low prices,” Yao said.