Wed, Feb 14, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers urge visits to Hualien

NATURAL HOSPITALITY:The government rejected allegations that China has suspended tours to Taiwan next month after nine Chinese died in the quake

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

The Cabinet yesterday urged the public to visit Hualien, as the earthquake-hit county is experiencing a drop in tourist numbers.

Following the deadly earthquake on Feb. 6, many travelers canceled their room bookings and train tickets for the Lunar New Year holiday and afterward.

Executive Yuan spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) urged Taiwanese and international tourists to visit Hualien County to experience Taiwanese culture and hospitality.

Hsu’s comments came in the wake of news reports alleging that China is suspending group tours to Taiwan next month, as nine Chinese tourists were among the 16 people confirmed dead following the quake.

The government has yet to verify the reported suspension with Chinese authorities, Hsu said, adding that the Straits Exchange Foundation has been asked to communicate with Beijing over the issue.

He urged Chinese tourists not to be deterred by the earthquake and to visit the county known for its landscapes and hospitality.

The Tourism Bureau has announced a NT$55.5 million (US$1.89 million) support program for the county’s tourism industry, which could boost tourist numbers and create revenue that is several times higher than the support budget, Hsu added.

Minister Without Portfolio Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶), who leads a Cabinet task force to conduct post-earthquake reconstruction, also urged the public to spend their Lunar New Year holidays in the county.

The earthquake devastated downtown Hualien City and the county’s Sincheng (新城) and Jian (吉安) townships, but other parts of the county and the scenic areas are unaffected, she said.

The government would provide a NT$30 million relief loan to the hotel industry as part of the support program to help hotels repair damage, Chen said.

Chen also sought to assuage Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi, who said the Cabinet’s NT$929 million disaster relief fund to the county government was short of the estimated NT$2 billion needed for the reconstruction.

The central government has a reserve fund for disaster relief and could also dip into central tax revenue as a secondary fund, Chen said.

“The central government will not treat Hualien unfairly,” she said.

The task force is to convene its fourth meeting after the holiday to make budget and action plans in accordance with the county government’s damage reports, she said, promising all necessary efforts to assist the county.

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