Fri, Nov 29, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Elections souring winter travel

SNOWED IN:With elections drawing near, sales of winter tour packages are down, and sales for tours to Hokkaido fell 50 percent compared with this time last year

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The Jan. 11 presidential and legislative elections have disrupted the winter travel market, despite discounts offered by travel agencies and airlines, a Travel Quality Assurance Association report published yesterday showed.

The report on a reasonable tour prices during the first quarter of next year, including outbound and inbound tours, showed large shortfalls in interest for winter tourism packages compared with previous years.

Package tours to Hokkaido, Japan, during the three weeks before the election cost NT$6,000 to NT$7,000 less compared with the same period last year, Phoenix Tours (鳳凰旅遊) assistant manager Lin Yi-chun (林怡君) said.

“December to January are the peak travel time for tours in Hokkaido. Travel agents’ operational costs for the tours cannot go lower due to a consumer tax increase, which took effect last month,” Lin said.

“However, because people are less willing to travel before the election, airlines have reduced ticket prices to boost sales. The travel agencies have also tried to cap the tour fees to below NT$30,000 by limiting group events in the tours. Nevertheless, the sales of Hokkaido tours still fell by 50 percent compared with the same period last year,” Lin said.

The election has not only affected tours to popular travel destinations in East Asia, the association said, adding that purchases of tours to Australia and New Zealand, also fell by 50 percent this month and are expected to decline by 30 percent next month.

Sales of packaged tours to Malaysia and Indonesia are expected to drop by 70 to 80 percent in January, it said.

Tours to China have also been affected by the election, despite one airline lowering ticket prices to Shanghai to about NT$2,000, which is only slightly higher than the price of a high-speed rail ticket, the association said.

Tours to North America and Indochina cost about the same as last year, but fewer people are registering for them before the election, the report showed.

Pro Tour (行家旅行) executive director John Pai (白中仁), who is also the association’s travel safety committee chair, said that the period before the school winter vacation begins in January is generally off-peak for travelers, regardless if there is an election.

During this time, airlines often give discounts, Pai said.

However, the elections have caused travel agents’ business to decrease further, he said.

In past elections, about 20 percent of voters would rather stay at home than go out to vote, Pai said.

They might as well use the opportunity to travel abroad, given the massive discounts offered by airlines and travel agencies before the election, he added.

Tour prices to Japan would rebound during the Lunar New Year holiday, which is between Jan. 23 and Jan. 29, the association said.

Overall, an airfare to Japan is expected to cost NT$1,000 to NT$2,000 more than last year, it said.

Due to the Tokyo Olympics, costs would also rise by an estimated NT$2,500 in the summer next year, the association said.

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