The Ministry of Transportation and Communications on Wednesday proposed a fourth relief package for travel service operators who are still face difficulties as the nation’s borders remain closed to tourists to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministry made the announcement after travel operators urged the government to continue subsidizing the industry from this month through December, as subsidies of the third relief package ended last month.
“We thank the government for subsidizing the travel industry, but previous subsidies for travel agency employees were capped at NT$20,000 per person for agencies that promised to keep salaries at 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The operators still need to pay the workers’ labor and health insurance fees, which remains a huge burden to the operators,” Travel Agents’ Association chairman Hsiao Po-jen (蕭博仁) said.
Photo courtesy of the Kinmen County Government via CNA
“We hope that the percentage of employees’ salaries covered by subsidies could raise from 40 percent to 80 percent. If the government does not have a big enough budget to extend the funding until December, subsidies between NT$10,000 and NT$30,000 would be acceptable,” he said.
The government should also subsidize domestic tour groups as this would save many jobs, he said.
Hsiao expressed the hope that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Palau’s tourism office in Taiwan would restart negotiations on a potential travel bubble.
“We spoke with the office director on Tuesday, and he said that Palau would be open to tourists from overseas, as long as both sides agree that travelers who provide negative COVID-19 test results would not have to quarantine,” he said.
Palau is Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in Micronesia, and if the two countries cannot reach a travel bubble agreement, no other countries could presume to make such a deal with Taiwan, he said.
The nation should also form a travel bubble with Hawaii, he added.
Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Chi Wen-jong (祁文中) said that the government needs some time to think about new measures to help the travel industry.
“The pandemic is worse than what we imagined,” he said.
“The Tourism Bureau has thrown in whatever it had to sustain the travel industry, and the Tourism Development Fund is nearly depleted. Please give us some time to think about what else we can do, and how and to what extent we can help. It also depends on how the pandemic develops,” he said
The ministry would monitor the challenges to the travel industry and make adjustments to its policies according to the situation, he added.
The ministry is planning to propose a fourth relief package, he said, adding that additional subsidies would need the Executive Yuan’s approval.
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