Tue, Sep 10, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Waiver gives tour bus operators boost

NO FUEL SURCHARGE:Waiving the fuel surcharge for a year would save about NT$30,000 per vehicle, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung said

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

From next month, a fuel surcharge for tour buses is to be waived for a year, giving operators a needed boost as the tourism industry feels the effects of a decline in Chinese tourists, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said over the weekend.

The reprieve came after the ministry launched a winter travel subsidy program, allowing hoteliers to apply for loans from the NT$9.07 billion (US$290.24 million) backed by the Small and Medium Enterprise Credit Guarantee Fund.

Beijing’s ban on individual travel to Taiwan by Chinese has affected the tourism industry, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said.

Waiving the fuel surcharge for tour buses for one year would save an operator about NT$30,000 per vehicle, Lin said, adding that the ministry has the authority to implement the policy.

There have been other times when the fuel surcharge has been waived due to a significant event. The Directorate-General of Highways in 2008 agreed to waive the fuel surcharge or reduce it by 50 percent for cargo vehicles and tour buses for six months after a rise in oil prices, causing the National Treasury Administration to lose NT$1.5 billion.

Implemention of the year-long waiver is expected to cost the Treasury NT$435 million in revenue, the ministry said.

On a 2017 survey, tour bus operators said their revenues were in a continual slide, the ministry said.

The survey also showed that the operators had difficulty recovering costs through bus rate hikes or government subsidies, because they are on the bottom rung of the tourism industry.

The ministry said that, in amending the fuel surcharge rules so that the operators could directly benefit, it decided to waive the surcharge from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 next year.

Details are to be published tomorrow in the Executive Yuan’s gazette, the ministry added.

Taiwan has about 16,357 tour buses, ministry data showed, while the fuel surcharge varies from NT$18,900 to NT$69,300 a year, depending on the engine displacement of the tour bus.

The government is helping to ease the burden of tour bus operators at a time when business is dropping, National Joint Association of Bus for Tourists president Lin Chien-liang (林建良) said, but added that he hoped the ministry would propose a way for them to operate sustainably.

Waiving the fuel surcharge, although a small amount, is better than nothing, otherwise a lot of operators would go out of business, Taiwan Tour Bus Development Association chairman Lee Shih-chia (李式嘉) said.

However, the waiver is like pouring a glass of water on a raging fire — the relief quickly evaporates, he added.

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