Wed, Nov 07, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Travel agencies oppose easing rules on operators

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Travel Agent Association representatives hold a meeting in Taipei yesterday to discuss a proposed amendment to Article 27 of the Act for the Development of Tourism.

Photo: Hsiao Yu-hsin, Taipei Times

The Travel Agent Association yesterday objected to a proposed amendment by the Tourism Bureau that would relax rules on who can handle travel business.

Article 27 of the Act for the Development of Tourism (發展觀光條例) stipulates that businesses other than travel agencies cannot undertake the same operations as travel agencies, but allows them to sell domestic transportation tickets on behalf of transport service operators.

Due to the popularity of tours to farms and Aboriginal villages, the Council of Agriculture and the Council of Indigenous Peoples, as well as hotels, bed and breakfasts, travel writers and Internet celebrities want to make tour arrangements themselves rather than through travel agencies.

The proposed amendment would require government agencies or non-travel agency businesses to submit travel itineraries to the bureau for approval.

Association domestic tour division spokesperson Lin Yi-shun (林義順) told a news conference in Taipei that travel agencies arrange tours for 4 million to 8 million domestic travelers per year, but the number would likely be halved if the amendment passes.

Government departments still need travel agencies to arrange tours for them, Lin said, adding that the amendment would cause them to lose an estimated NT$500 million to NT$1 billion (US$16.24 million to US$32.49 million) in government business.

“All local travel agencies can be dissolved, because it is no longer a business that requires a license or special permission from the government. We can all save the costs of leasing office space, paying travel-related insurance premiums and depositing guarantee funds to promise that they fulfill their travel contracts,” he said.

The amendment would also create more consumer disputes, Lin said.

Citing an accident in February last year involving a bus operated by Taipei-based Iris Travel Service Co that killed 33 people and injured 11, Lin said that the insurance that travel agencies are obligated to purchase meets the financial needs of all victims in a timely manner.

One type of obligatory liability insurance requires that the agency fulfills its contract with the travelers, while another states that the agency is responsible for all tour participants.

Unlicensed operators only purchase regular travel insurance, which only compensates the victims after the insurance company ascertains that there were no human errors or other legal ramifications, Lin said.

Travelers would also not be compensated if an unlicensed operator cancels a tour, because such operators do not deposit guarantee funds, he said.

Association chairman Hsiao Po-jen (蕭博仁) said that all new tour operators can become Tier-B operators under the act, so there is no need to name a new category.

He said that 99 percent of travel agencies are against the amendment.

“If we do not say anything now, there will be chaos in the market once it is open to everyone,” he said.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清), who was invited to attend the news conference, told travel agents that the bureau would not pursue such an amendment, because it is not feasible.

The bureau said it does not have any position on this issue, adding that it wants to carefully consider opinions from all parties before making a final decision.

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