The Tourism Bureau is scheduled to meet with travel industry representatives today to discuss measures to minimize the potential damage to the tourism sector from the recent food safety scandal.
Issues related to the scandal became the focus of a question-and-answer session with the legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday, which was scheduled to review the bureau’s budget for the next fiscal year.
Lawmakers were concerned that the scandal would eventually take a toll on the nation’s tourism market, which has suffered recently after China implemented a restriction last month on travel agencies offering low-cost shopping tours.
China has become the nation’s largest source of foreign tourists, followed by Japan, Hong Kong and Macau. The bureau’s statistics showed that the number Chinese tourists who arrived in organized groups, which accounts for 60 percent of all Chinese visitors each year, were down by 33.6 percent year-on-year last month. Independent Chinese tourists, on the other hand, rose 141 percent from the same time last year.
While the new Chinese tourism regulations will hurt the market in the short term, Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said that the market would eventually benefit from the enforcement of the regulations.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Li-hung (楊麗環) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said that the crisis would hurt businesses in night markets, which were voted by international visitors as the most popular attraction. The lawmakers questioned what the bureau would do to preserve the nation’s reputation through the food safety incidents.
DPP Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said that Singapore had designated 1,000 inspectors to the tourism market in an attempt to reshape its international image. He said that the ministry should consider sending more inspectors to safeguard food quality in hotels and restaurants, which are overseen by the Tourism Bureau.
In response, Yeh said that the ministry would work with travel association representatives to jointly monitor food quality in night markets and hotels.
Tourism Bureau director-general David Hsieh (謝謂君) said that they have requested the nation’s embassies accurately communicate the government’s measures aimed at addressing the food safety issues to travelers.
Meanwhile, Yang and DPP Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said many Taiwanese would rather travel abroad than take domestic vacations because local tours are getting more expensive.
In response, Yeh said the ministry would research and develop fair-price tour strategies to boost the domestic travel market.