Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday defended his directive that local travel agencies and their personnel be punished if their clients are found to have brought meat products into the nation from areas affected by African swine fever.
Su on Monday instructed the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to set punishments for the offense.
The Tourism Bureau the same day announced the new fines, saying that if a traveler is caught importing meat or meat products into Taiwan in contravention of a ban on such items, the travel agency that arranged their visit could be fined up to NT$150,000 (US$4,868).
Photo: Chen Yen-ting, Taipei Times
The move has sparked a backlash among travel agencies.
Taipei Association of Travel Agents vice president Ko Mu-chou (柯牧洲) was quoted by local Chinese-language media as saying that it is “ridiculous” to hold local travel agencies liable for meat products imported by their clients, as the tour guides meet the clients only after the visitors arrive in Taiwan.
Local travel agencies have informed their Chinese counterparts about Taiwan’s measures against the disease, Ko said.
Chung Hsing Travel Service director Lee Chi-yueh (李奇嶽) said that offenders were “none of his business.”
If agencies repeatedly advise tourists not to carry meat into the nation, but they do it anyway, “what else can we do?” Lee asked.
While defending the new policy, Su yesterday used the term “tour group leader (領隊),” instead of “tour guide (導遊),” which he used on Monday.
Disease prevention is like fighting a war, and if everybody thinks it is none of their business, the disease will surely make its way into the nation, Su said.
That would obliterate the nation’s pig farming industry and cause losses of NT$200 billion, he said.
“There would not even be minced pork rice. Foreign visitors would stop coming, hurting the tourism industry,” Su said.
The premier denied having said that visitors’ checked luggage would be opened and inspected, saying that he only urged travel agencies and related personnel to remind tourists to heed the nation’s rules.
Travel agencies that fail to warn their clients against carrying meat into Taiwan could face a fine of NT$30,000 to NT$150,000, while tour escorts could face a fine of NT$10,000 to NT$50,000, bureau Director-General Chou Yung-hui (周永暉) said, citing the Act for the Development of Tourism (發展觀光條例).
Agencies that keep travelers informed would not be fined, he said, adding that authorities would assess the liability of travel agencies on a case-by-case basis.
In other news, Su yesterday inspected the venue for this year’s Taiwan Lantern Festival in Pingtung County’s Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area (大鵬灣國家風景區).
The event, which is to run from Feb. 19 to March 3, is to be held in the county for the first time.
Su, a former Pingtung County commissioner, called on the bureau and the county government to work together to ensure that shuttle buses, parking spaces and pedestrian and vehicle routes would be planned in time for the opening.
Additional reporting by CNA
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