Tue, Jul 17, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Taiwan, China split on tourism safety

ACCIDENTS:One travel expert said the whirlwind tours that Chinese groups favor and random shopping stops could be to blame for a recent spate of accidents

Staff writer, with CNA

Chinese media are questioning the safety and quality of tours Chinese nationals take in Taiwan, but a Taiwanese tourism industry official said the arguments were either off base or presented an incomplete picture.

In an article posted on the Web site of China Huayi Broadcasting Corp, Wang Jianmin (王建民) of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on Friday said the packed itineraries of Chinese tour groups in Taiwan have led to higher safety risks because tour bus drivers often speed from location to location.

Wang said Taiwan should not ignore the poor quality of the tours, especially with the number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan expected to surpass 2 million this year.

The overseas edition of the People’s Daily, a Chinese Communist Party organ, also published an article on Saturday that detailed five tour bus accidents involving Chinese tour groups this year and urged Taiwanese authorities to improve infrastructure and reduce safety risks.

Travel Agent Association of Taiwan secretary-general Roget Hsu (許高慶) said on Sunday that he did not feel the criticism was warranted, adding that Taiwanese tour operators have better risk management than their Chinese counterparts.

However, he agreed that the whirlwind tour itineraries around Taiwan had contributed to an increase in the accident rate, but said he expected the problem to ease over time.

As more independent Chinese travelers visit Taiwan and China’s tourism industry develops, there will be fewer tours trying to see the whole of Taiwan in eight days — the favored itinerary among Chinese group tours at present — Hsu said.

He also foresaw an increase in in-depth tours focusing on certain regions rather than those circling Taiwan in one visit.

One factor overlooked by the Chinese critique of local tour safety, Hsu said, was the role of Chinese tour leaders.

He said most of the complaints the association has received about Chinese tour groups are from Taiwanese tour guides, who grumble about the Chinese leaders of the tours randomly adding shopping stops to make extra commissions.

Taiwanese and Chinese tour operators should improve coordination and supervision of tour schedules, Hsu said.

He also promised that the association would improve the training of Taiwanese guides in tour management.

Regarding complaints about Chinese tour group leaders, Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Chang Hsi-tsung (張錫聰) said the cases would be handed over to China’s Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Strait.

The bureau is also working with other government agencies and local authorities to increase inspections of transportation equipment and accommodation to ensure the quality of Chinese group tours in Taiwan, Chang added.

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