The government will strive to reduce any negative impact on the tourism industry brought about by the cross-strait service trade agreement, Vice Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said yesterday to a travel agents’ association in Taipei, adding that, since entering the WTO, the nation should be steering the economy toward liberalization.
The agreement will allow three Chinese travel agencies to offer tours in Taiwan to locals.
Mao, who is a former minister of Transportation and Communications and ex-Tourism Bureau director-general, was invited to give a presentation on the pact by the association.
Mao’s presentation was met with a demonstration by Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) members, who waved protest banners as soon as Mao started to speak.
The protest infuriated Travel Agent Association chairman Yao Ta-kuang (姚大光), who was also scheduled to give a speech on the service agreement.
He responded to the protest by pounding the desk and asking the TSU members to leave the meeting room.
Mao said the service agreement between China and Taiwan works both ways, adding that a country has to open part of its market in exchange for access to part of another’s market.
He said China would not limit the number of Taiwanese travel agencies interested in establishing branch offices in China and would allow Taiwanese travel agencies to offer oversea travel services to the Chinese people two years later.
“The government will devise complementary measures to reduce any negative impact from the agreement. Travel agents in Taiwan have vitality and creativity and can take advantage of the business opportunities that will be opened to them,” Mao said.
Yao said that at least 20 local travel agencies would establish offices in China under the agreement.
The vice premier also that the government has allowed overseas investors to operate travel agencies in Taiwan for a long time and the policy has not affected domestic travel agents at all.
One reasons for that is that the Consumer Protection Act (消保法) stipulates a principle of strict liability, making the travel agents legally responsibility for losses regardless of culpability, Yao said.
Setting up a travel agency in Taiwan is not easy, he added.
Ya also said that Taiwan is a highly competitive market with more than 3,200 travel agencies, and the industry will not change dramatically with the addition of three Chinese competitors.
Travel agencies in Taiwan monitor their travel services’ quality carefully and are ahead of their Chinese peers by five to 10 years, which should not worry about the impact from the service agreement.
Some travel agents asked whether the government had fully assessed the impact of the agreement.
They said that since the competitor is China, it is different than other foreign investors. The government should beware of potential negative influences, they said.