Tourism in the eastern parts of Taiwan could be hurt by adjustments to the entrance fees of national scenic areas set to be implemented by the Tourism Bureau next month, tourism officials in Hualien and Taitung counties said.
The bureau is planning to hike entry fees by NT$500 for camping sites at Siaoyeliou (小野柳), Shihtiping (石梯坪) and Rueisuei (瑞穗), bringing the fees to NT$1,000 on weekends and holidays, and NT$800 on weekdays. The new rates would be 100 percent and 160 percent higher than the current ones respectively, the bureau said.
It added that parking fees for Sun Moon Lake (日月潭), Siaoyeliou, Sansiantai (三仙台) and Basiandong (八仙洞) would also be raised by NT$50 for buses and NT$10 for cars.
Under the new rates, buses would be charged NT$170 on weekdays and NT$200 on weekends and holidays, while small vehicles would be charged NT$50 on weekdays and NT$50 on weekends and holidays.
The tourism offices of Hualien and Taitung counties both said that without a parallel increase in the quality of services and facilities, raising the fees was unreasonable.
Su Yi-shun (蘇意順), head of the Hualien County Tourism and Public Affairs Department, said the government should take a step back and reconsider the policy as it would dampen people’s inclination to visit or camp out in Hualien.
A man surnamed Lin (林) who works in the Hualien tourism industry said that if the rates were hiked to such high levels, the large numbers of tourists who use the camping grounds around Shihtiping and the Siouguluan River (秀姑巒溪) on weekends and holidays may elect to stay in hotels instead.
Chen Shu-hui (陳淑惠), the head of the Taitung County Government’s Tourism Department, said that raising camping fees would not impact tourism in Taitung too much, but the planned rise in parking prices would.
More expensive rates at parking lots would result in tourists parking on the streets instead, Chen said, adding that this would create parking violations and could also hamper the flow of traffic.
Chen added that profits made by businesses in tourist areas may also suffer as tourists may be reluctant to drive through them if made to pay higher fees.
Tourism Bureau Deputy Director-General Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰) said that the bureau’s policy is aimed at increasing revenue for tourism sites and reducing facilities’ reliance on government funding.
The bureau’s rate hike plan is to be carried out in two stages, the first of which is to implemented next month and the second at some point before June 2015.
The second-stage hikes would cover 17 tourist spots, including Gueishan Island (龜山島) in Yilan County, Shihtiping and the Jhaorih Hot Springs (朝日溫泉), one of Green Island’s three saltwater hot springs.
However, Chang said the bureau has yet to hold discussions with local governments about how to implement the second stage of hikes.
Other frequently visited scenic spots such as Waiao (外澳), Bitoujiao (鼻頭角), Luye Township (鹿野) and Liyutan Lake (鯉魚潭) would remain free of charge, Chang said.
Additional reporting by You Tai-lang and Huang Ming-tang