One restaurant in the Kenting (墾丁) area of Pingtung County’s Hengchun Township (恆春) has begun experimenting with a ban on Chinese tour groups, making its intentions clear with signs, a move that has drawn encouragement from curious Taiwanese tourists.
As a growing number of travel agencies that cater to Chinese tourists find themselves in debt, restaurant owner Wu Po-min (吳柏旻) said he hopes to draw individual foreign and Taiwanese tourists, rather than undercutting offerings for tour groups and lowering standards.
“Bringing annual losses of nearly NT$1 million [US$31,260], Chinese tourists are poison wrapped in honey,” Wu said. “When Taiwan was first opened up to Chinese tourists, business appeared to be great. Every day there would be bus after bus of tourists parked outside. It was an endless stream of traffic and, for a time, lots of money was made.”
“However, in recent years travel agencies have been settling bills on a monthly basis — the nightmare has begun for many restaurants that depend on tourism,” he added.
Large travel agencies often transport busloads of tourists to restaurants for a commission, but in the past couple of years, as these agencies have started going bankrupt, they have been leaving as much as NT$1 million in unpaid restaurant bills, Wu said.
Bankruptcies have been occurring all over Taiwan, with proprietors generally forced to absorb unpaid bills themselves, he said.
“As recent rumors indicate that the number of Chinese visitors is shrinking, we might as well take advantage of the busy summer season to cut off this ill-fated relationship,” Wu said.
Since banning Chinese tour groups earlier this month, Wu said his restaurant has already begun to see an about 30 percent decline in lunch revenue, but added that he sees this as “short-term pain for long-term gain” and feels it is a worthy compromise to maintain high standards.
According to Wu, tourists from other nations and Taiwanese travelers alike have welcomed the change, with some telling him: “Awesome. I do not have to work my way around crowds of loud Chinese tourists to eat — that alone makes it worth it to come here.”
Wu, who took over the family business, said he is happy to have found a way to share his local food and scenery with travelers without the need to pay commissions, get into pricing competitions with other restaurants, or “appease proud Chinese tourists who lack manners.”
Wu said he feels that this is the right path for Kenting businesses and he believes others will follow in his footsteps.