Chinese law hits arrivals to south

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Oct 09, 2013 - Page 4

Tourism service operators in southern Taiwan, especially those focusing on hosting Chinese tour groups, have experienced a drop in trade after China implemented a stricter travel law on Oct. 1, according to industry sources.

Lin Fu-nan (林富男), convener of the South Taiwan Travel Industry Alliance and operator of the Kingship Hotel in Greater Kaohsiung, said the occupancy rate at his hotel reached an average of between 120 and 130 rooms a day during the first six days of this month because Chinese tour groups had made reservations long before the launch of the new law. The occupancy rate then plunged to 20 rooms on Monday and further dropped to single-digit figures yesterday, he said.

Hotels, souvenir shops, tour bus companies and tour guides in Greater Kaohsiung have been affected by the changes in China’s travel regulations, he added.

Owners of several Greater Kaohsiung hotels, including Hotel R and Hu Die Gu, have offered to sell off their stakes. Zeta, the largest jewelry shop in Greater Kaohsiung, which used to serve up to 100 tour groups from China per day, received only about a dozen Chinese tour groups on Sunday.

The first week of this month coincided with China’s week-long National Day holiday, known as tourism’s Golden Week. Statistics compiled by Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau showed that Chinese tourist arrivals in the first six days of this month declined 30.57 percent from the same time last year.

Tourism Bureau deputy section chief Alice Chen said the decline is roughly in line with the bureau’s forecast.

“It’s not surprising that the number of tourist arrivals has declined in the early stages of the enforcement of the new Chinese travel law, but the number will rebound when Chinese become more familiar with the new regulations and their merits. We believe the number will rebound by early next year or around the Lunar New Year holiday,” Chen said.

China’s new travel law is aimed at regulating fairer trade between travel agencies and tourists. The new law prohibits travel agencies from offering low-priced tours and then making up their profit margins by obtaining commissions from shops to which they bring their tour groups or requiring additional payment for services.

While the number of Chinese who traveled in groups to Taiwan between Oct. 1 and Sunday declined by about 8 percent year-on-year, the number of independent Chinese tourist arrivals more than doubled to 22,000, thanks to relaxed restrictions for them and more Chinese cities included in the Free Independent Travel program, National Immigration Agency officials said.