The Travel Agent Association of Taiwan yesterday threatened to boycott tours to Thailand if the Thailand Trade and Economic Office (TTEO) in Taipei insists on implementing a new policy requiring online tourist visa applicants to submit a financial statement.
The new policy, which took effect on Sunday, applies to Taiwan, China, Britain and France, TTEO said last week, adding that it chose Taiwan to first implement the procedure, because it is a world leader in information technology.
However, travelers and travel agents in Taiwan have said that the policy is disrespectful of Taiwanese tourists, and the government has humiliated the nation by agreeing to the arrangement.
Association chairman Hsiao Po-jen (蕭博仁) said that he had heard that TTEO would temporarily halt the implementation of the policy and make an announcement about it yesterday.
However, not only did the office not make such an announcement, it said that it would implement the policy as planned, Hsiao said.
“This policy was decided by the TTEO itself for its own convenience. Nearly 700,000 Taiwanese tourists travel to Thailand each year. Why do they still need to enclose a financial statement when they apply for visas? Taiwan is not a third-world country. The policy is just ridiculous,” he said.
The government has waived the visa requirement for Thai tourists to encourage more to travel to Taiwan, but it allowed the Thai government to impose restrictions that hinder Taiwanese tourists from easily traveling to Thailand, he said, adding that he would visit the TTEO today to speak up for the travel agents.
“If the office’s mind is set on mistreating Taiwanese tourists by enforcing the policy, I would write to travel agents across the nation, asking them to stop organizing tours to Thailand,” Hsiao said.
Hsiao also said he blamed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for being weak and believing that the matter is not under its purview.
The ministry should halt its visa-waiver program for Thai tourists, he added.
Many people have complained that they cannot access the new online visa-application system, Twins Tour general manager Wu De-lun (吳德倫) said, adding that people would find it even more unacceptable if they have to present their financial statement when they apply for a visa.
This was not the first time TTEO has come under criticism from local travel agencies for enforcing unpopular policies.
Last year, the association protested the office’s proposed NT$470 visa fee increase and threatened to stop sending tourists to Thailand, which eventually caused the office to drop the idea.
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