Fri, Jul 22, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Premier calls for tourism sector reform

‘PROFIT OVER SAFETY’:Lin Chuan raised questions about tour bus management, overworked bus drivers and competition leading to a decline in service quality

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

Premier Lin Chuan, center, burns incense at a religious ceremony for the 26 passengers killed in Tuesday’s tour bus fire at a public funeral home in Taoyuan’s Jhongli District yesterday.

Photo: Chou Min-hung, Taipei Times

Premier Lin Chuan (林全) yesterday paid his respects to the 26 victims of Tuesday’s tour bus fire, vowing to reform the tourism industry to avoid similar incidents from occurring.

Accompanied by Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦), the premier yesterday attended a ceremony at a mourning hall for the 26 victims — which included 24 Chinese tourists, a Taiwanese bus driver and a Taiwanese tour guide — at a public funeral home in Taoyuan’s Jhongli District (中壢).

Lin bowed deeply and offered incense in front of the victims’ portraits.

“I came here to offer incense to the victims to express my sorrow about the fatal accident that took 26 precious lives,” Lin told reporters outside the mourning hall.

“The president has asked the government to ascertain the cause of the accident as soon as possible,” Lin added.

In addition to offering condolences and assistance to the victims’ families, Lin said that reforms are needed to improve the quality of service in the tourism industry to avoid similar incidents from occurring.

“With the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan growing rapidly [in the past few years], many travel agencies have prioritized making a profit over safety, which is an issue that must be addressed,” Lin said. “It is not just about the management of tour buses, but also about whether bus drivers are overworked and whether there is negative competition that leads to a decline in the quality of travel services or a so-called ‘integrated travel services’ problem.”

The government is to look into the issues and come up with reform plans, which are to be announced to the public, Lin said.

During a Cabinet meeting yesterday, Deputy Minister of Transportation Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said that many tour bus operators have installed electrical devices, such as karaoke machines and water dispensers, in their vehicles, adding to the risk of electrical short circuits and fire.

To improve safety, Wang said the ministry would demand that the Vehicle Safety Certification Center improves inspections of electrical systems on tour buses.

In addition, all large passenger vehicles, regardless of age, are to be required to show their maintenance records when undergoing routine inspections, he said.

Only vehicles 10 years and older are required to show their maintenance records.

A funeral service is to be held on Monday for the victims. The remains of the victims are to be cremated on Sunday, after which, the families of the Chinese victims are to take their ashes to China.

The families of the Chinese victims arrived in Taiwan yesterday.

Yang Jing, vice general manager of the Ping An Insurance Group’s Dalian branch in China, said that 12 of the victims were insured by the company, which had as of Wednesday paid out more than 1.2 million yuan (US$179,740) in insurance claims to the families of four of the victims.

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