Government backpedals on promotion of tipping

‘FLEECED TWICE’::Tourism officials said there would be no public campaign to promote tipping after reports that it would encourage the practice sparked complaints

Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, May 04, 2013 - Page 4

The government appears to be having second thoughts about a controversial plan to encourage tipping in the hotel industry, with Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) saying on Thursday there was no timetable for implementing the proposal.

“I think it will take quite some time for the public to develop the habit of tipping,” Yeh said.

Tourism officials said there would be no campaign any time soon to promote tipping, contrary to media reports late last month that said promotional efforts through travel agents and tour guides were imminent.

Without mentioning a proposed starting date, media outlets at the time quoted Tourism Bureau officials as saying that they hoped to see hotel housekeepers and bellboys benefit from the voluntary scheme.

Based on the discussions at a meeting of tourism officials and industry stakeholders, the officials were reported as suggesting that NT$50 would be an appropriate tip for individuals who provide service to hotel guests.

The proposal drew immediate fire from the public and raised several questions such as whether people were being asked to also leave tips at restaurants and, if not, why not.

Many criticized the proposal, saying a 10 percent service charge is already in place at many hotels and restaurants. One newspaper headline said that guests would be “fleeced twice” if they had to pay tips at hotels.

In response, tourism officials said tipping is different from a service charge, because it is aimed at creating better relations between customers and service providers.

Chen Chiung-hua (陳瓊華), deputy director of the bureau’s Hotel, Travel and Training Division, said that tipping would not be mandatory and the proposal simply reflected the views of industry operators, whose pay has remained flat despite surging numbers of inbound tourists.

A tipping system could help boost the income of frontline tourism workers, as it is estimated that housekeepers at medium-sized hotels with about 100 guest rooms could see their monthly salary increase by about 5 percent, she said.

The total number of inbound tourists last year reached a record 7.31 million, nearly double the figure five years ago. Last year’s number included 2.6 million Chinese nationals, or 35.5 percent.

During the meeting mentioned in the news reports, the bureau reached a consensus with hoteliers, travel agents and tour guides to promote tipping, Chen said.

However, none of the groups represented at the meeting — the Taiwan Tourist Hotel Association, Tourist Guide Association and the Travel Agent Association of the Republic of China — was willing to claim the initiative, saying only that they would follow the guidelines issued in any tipping system.