Singapore has shown an interest in forming a travel bubble with Taiwan, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said yesterday, adding that the government is in talks with Vietnam and Japan about similar deals.
Lin attended a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, which was scheduled to review the budget allocated for Tourism Development Funds and Freeway Construction Funds.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hung Meng-kai (洪孟楷) asked Lin if the ministry has considered lifting the nation’s travel restrictions earlier than scheduled, given that Pfizer on Monday announced that it is making progress on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
Hung also asked if the nation’s plan to form a travel bubble with Palau was canceled because Palau questioned the nation’s testing of COVID-19 cases, and whether the nation could start travel bubbles with other countries, similar to those between New Zealand and Australia, and between Singapore and China.
Lin said that the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) would decide if Taiwan’s travel restrictions should be eased or lifted.
Palau is having a presidential election and is concerned that opening its borders would strain its disease prevention personnel and resources, he said.
Lin also told the committee that Singapore has been seeking a travel bubble deal with Taiwan and has contacted several government agencies, adding that he would soon meet with its local trade representative.
Taiwan is also in talks with Vietnam and Japan about forming travel bubbles with them, he said.
“We welcome similar proposals from other countries; we will tell them what we think are feasible solutions. However, any such travel agreement must first be approved by the CECC, which would determine whether an agreement can be enforced in ways that comply with the nation’s disease prevention policy,” he said.
As the government at the end of last month stopped granting subsidies for the second phase of “disease prevention tours,” Lin told reporters that the ministry plans to boost domestic tourism next month and in January with a winter travel subsidy plan, which it hopes would benefit travel agencies, tour guides, tourists and tour managers, and scenic areas.
“We will meet with officials in the six municipalities to see if they can offer more incentives to help keep the domestic tour market warm, or even heat it up a bit,” he said.
The bureau’s preliminary plan entitles tourists aged 55 or older traveling to Taipei, New Taipei City, Keelung, Taoyuan or Hsinchu to a travel subsidy of NT$1,500 (US$52.03) per room, which they would have to use between Feb. 8 and Feb. 13, before the Lunar New Year holiday next year.
People could present their ID numbers up to three times to apply for a subsidy, it added.
“Most domestic tourists traveled to destinations in central and southern Taiwan, as well as Hualien, Taitung and the outlying islands during the second phase of ‘disease prevention tours.’ We hope that we will help Taipei, New Taipei City, Keelung, Taoyuan and Hsinchu by breaking up the holiday traffic,” Lin said.
The government would also offer each domestic tour group a subsidy of NT$15,000 on condition that the tour lasts at least two days, and recruits self-employed tour guides and managers, he said.
The ministry has budgeted about NT$600 million for the initiative, which is expected to fund 36,000 tour groups.
To expand the scope of “pretend go abroad” tours, the Civil Aeronautics Administration has allowed civil aviation carriers to depart from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and land at other airports in the nation.
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