Wed, Jun 03, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Shopping tours cash probe urged

TARGETING MUSLIMS:Though the government is unlikely to waive all visa requirements, it said it could streamline procedures for visitors from Southeast Asia

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The government should examine cashflows involved in shopping tours organized by Chinese tour groups, former minister of transportation and communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said yesterday, adding that more inspectors are needed to ensure that souvenir shop owners pay taxes.

Yeh made the comments at a forum hosted by the Taiwan Brilliant Tourism Association on strategies to raise the quality of tours across the nation. Problems generated by low-fee or zero-fee Chinese tour groups, as well as alleged tax evasion by souvenir shops became the focus of the forum.

Statistics from the association showed that the government misses out on about NT$70.19 million (US$2.26 million) per year in consumption taxes from Chinese tourists.

The association said that the National Tax Administration dispatched personnel to monitor the one-stop shopping tour services funded by Chinese investors and estimated that non-paid taxes from the services topped NT$1 billion.

One-stop shopping tours offered by Chinese travel agencies bring tourists to souvenir stores owned by the tour operators.

Yeh said that any tax evasion causes unfair competition in the market, and many national scenic areas are maintained through tax revenues.

He said that the Ministry of Transport and Communications should work with the Ministry of Finance to review the procedures involved in shopping tours’ cash flow, including analysis of bills and invoices for the services and souvenirs purchased by Chinese tourists.

“Tourism officials in Taiwan and China should step up their efforts to educate Chinese tourists about the importance of asking for invoices for the items they purchase,” Yeh said.

Former Tourism Bureau director-general Su Cherng-tyan (蘇成田) said that problems related to Chinese tour groups have continued to emerge, despite a survey by the bureau that found 97 percent of Chinese tourists are satisfied with their tours.

“Approximately 4 million Chinese tourists visit the nation each year,” Su said.

“If 3 percent of them are dissatisfied, it means that about 120,000 found their tours unsatisfactory,” he added.

Su said that the bureau should address issues linked to zero-priced or low-priced tours — in which travel agencies charge tourists little or no fees and generate revenue through commissions on souvenir shop sales — through the use of social media.

“Netizens can engage in instant evaluations of a souvenir shops, tour guide or tour bus service by scanning a QR code linked to the business,” he said.

The bureau said that it is scheduled to meet with travel industry representatives today to address several issues regarding Chinese tour groups, with one of them being invoices for services and souvenirs, adding that it is encouraging travel agencies to offer high-end tour services, which limits the number of shopping stops.

In related news, Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Frank Fan (范植谷) said that the government could streamline visa application procedures for tourists from Southeast Asia in a bid to attract more Muslim tourists from the region.

Fan said that the government is unlikely to completely waive visa requirements for all tourists from Southeast Asian countries, but that the government would make it easier for them to visit.

The bureau said that tourists from Southeast Asia need to provide a financial statement and letter of employment to apply for a visa, with the exception of Malaysia and Singapore.

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