Thu, Feb 28, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Travel agents pan subsidy plan

COMPLAINTS:Spring is not a slow season as the Tourism Bureau has claimed, a travel agent said, while a travel association head said that valuable funds were being wasted

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Travel agents yesterday criticized the Tourism Bureau’s plan to extend a travel subsidy program into spring, saying that it has disrupted the tourism industry and sparked customer complaints.

Citing the success of a winter subsidy program implemented at the end of last year, the bureau said that it is considering offering subsidies in spring as well.

Domestic travelers can use the subsidies for tours from April to June, which is generally an off-peak season, the bureau said.

According to a preliminary plan, domestic tourists would receive a subsidy of NT$500 each, regardless of their age and place of residence, it said, adding that the plan would cover independent and group travelers.

The bureau also urged local governments to offer subsidies of their own.

However, travel agents said the government should stop subsidizing domestic travelers.

Contrary to what the bureau has claimed, domestic tour operators are the busiest from April to June, as many people like to travel in spring, when the weather is warmer and flowers bloom, Cheng An Travel Service chairwoman Rola Wu (吳碧蓮) said.

In April, travel agents often have trouble chartering medium or large-size buses for student graduation tours or weekend getaways, she said, adding that people also have difficulty finding hotel rooms near popular spots to view cherry blossoms or other flowers, Wu said.

The subsidy program was so loosely planned and has caused so much trouble for travel agents that the bureau might as well give travelers NT$500 each to buy souvenirs, Wu said.

“We have received complaints from some of our customers, who said they were told that they would be charged a different and potentially higher hotel room rate if they use the subsidy,” she said.

Wu said that travelers also need to fill out several application forms to receive the subsidy, which leads to long lines at hotel reception desks.

When travelers are disqualified from receiving the subsidy due failing to correctly fill out the forms, they usually blame travel agents instead of the government, she added.

Some travelers have even asked travel agents to produce falsified documents so that they can use the subsidy to charter a tour bus, Wu said.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications had said the details of the spring travel subsidy program would be made public before the end of this month, but the bureau had yet to disclose any information regarding the program as of press time last night.

The government should focus on ensuring that the nation has a well-established tourism environment to which travel agents can bring tourists, Travel Quality Assurance Association public relations manager Frank Lee (李謙宏) said.

The funds for the subsidy program could have been spent on improving tourism infrastructure, but the government chose to let the tourists spend them, which would not produce any long-term benefits, he said.

Providing travel subsidies is like “giving people a quick dose of morphine,” Lee said, adding that people would stop traveling once the stimulant is removed.

Boosting domestic tourism should be the job of local government officials, who apparently do not work hard enough to promote domestic tours, association chairman Christopher Hsu (許晉睿) said.

“Local government officials in Japan form groups to visit travel agencies in Taiwan. In contrast, local governments in Taiwan wait for the Tourism Bureau to bring in international tourists,” Hsu said.

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