The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) yesterday dismissed as “nonsense” an online rumor that the Tourism Bureau — to give the impression that the government’s “new southbound policy” was successful — boosted the number Southeast Asian tourists visiting Taiwan over a short period of time by offering substantial subsidies.
Independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) asked Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) about the rumor during a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
The bureau was alleged to have given Southeast Asian tourists NT$500 for each scenic spot visited.
Wang said the rumor was “pure nonsense.”
The bureau has subsidized foreign travelers in large tour groups for the services they purchased, Wang said.
Previously, only groups spending at least four days in Taiwan were subsidized, but the bureau extended the policy to groups staying just three days, Wang said, adding that the bureau does not subsidize individual tourists.
The bureau issued a statement asking the public to be careful when evaluating the credibility of the information they find on the Internet.
The increase in the number of tourists from Southeast Asian nations can be attributed to the government’s policy of targeting the global tourism market, streamlining or waiving travel visa application procedures and enhancing tourism marketing campaigns, it said.
The tour groups are being subsidized in accordance with the Incentives for the Promotion of Foreign Incentive Tours to Taiwan (推動境外獎勵旅遊來臺獎助要點), which took effect in March last year, the bureau said.
To qualify for subsidies, the tour group must have at least 50 members, the bureau said.
Each person in the group would receive a subsidy of between NT$400 and NT$1,200 to spend on tickets to cultural performances, visits to historic sites, accommodation or other tourism-related events listed on their itineraries, it said.
Groups requesting subsidies must enclose the receipts for their purchases when applying for a subsidy, the bureau added.
The subsidies are comparable to similar incentives offered to international tourists by other nations, it said.
Bureau data showed 297 tour groups last year received such subsidies, and these groups brought a total of 42,663 tourists, about one-fourth of whom were from the nations targeted by the “new southbound policy.”
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