Fri, Aug 10, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Lawmakers insist tourism tax would frighten sightseers

Staff writer, with CNA

Several lawmakers from across party lines have voiced opposition to the idea of introducing a tourism tax in Yilan, Hualien and Taitung counties, saying it would drive away tourists.

Minister of Finance Chang Sheng-ford (張盛和) put forward the idea during a meeting with local officials in Hualien on Tuesday, suggesting that it would help attract more revenue to the three tourism-dependent counties in eastern Taiwan.

He said the tax would be justified because tourists create pollution in the areas they visit.

Chang was reported as saying that bed-and-breakfast establishments, restaurants and tour operators usually benefit from tourism, but local governments, which must keep building and maintaining infrastructure and facilities to attract sightseers, bear the costs.

Against this backdrop, a tourism tax paid by tourists and tour operators, as is done in countries like Switzerland, would help improve local governments’ finances, Chang was cited as saying.

In response, Yilan County Commissioner Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) said he was opposed to the proposal as it could undermine tourism investments and the tourism market in general.

He urged the Ministry of Finance to assess the feasibility of the tourism tax proposal at a time when the entire country is trying to attract more foreign tourists. Lin said he would invite the county chiefs of Hualien and Taitung to join him in presenting their arguments against the tax proposal to the central government.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said careful evaluation would be required before making any decision on the proposal.

A tourism tax would most likely deter sightseers from traveling to eastern Taiwan, which in turn would hamper development of the local tourism industry, she said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) expressed a similar view, saying the idea was ill-timed considering that Taiwan is experiencing an economic slowdown.

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