Government relief funds for the COVID-19-stricken tourism industry have reached only about half of the businesses in the sector, Taiwan People’s Party Legislator Lai Hsiang-ling (賴香伶) said on Monday.
Businesses in the sector have been hit particularly hard since May, when the government issued a nationwide level 3 COVID-19 alert, Lai told an online news conference with industry and consumer representatives.
The government should expand the scope eligibility for the funds, devise measures for gradually relaxing pandemic restrictions and extend the payment period for government loans, she said.
Pandemic restrictions should also be clearly explained to businesses and the public as restrictions are eased, she added.
“Since last year there have been more than 40 tourism businesses that have gone under. This has put a lot of people out of work,” she said. “Ministry of Labor statistics show that at least 31,000 people have been furloughed — mostly in the hospitality and tourism industries.”
While NT$5 billion (US$178.19 million) has been budgeted for the industries targeted by the government’s latest relief program, only about 48 percent of that has been distributed to businesses, she said.
“This year things have gotten even worse. Half of the 40,000 people employed in the tourism industry have been laid off,” Travel Quality Assurance Association spokesman Lee Chi-yueh (李奇嶽) said.
“The UK and France have provided relief to 80 percent of tourism businesses, but we have only helped less than 50 percent of those businesses,” he said.
The government should also provide health and unemployment insurance to furloughed workers in the sector, he added.
“The government should train new talent for the industry and try to reinvigorate it before lifting restrictions,” he said.
Taipei Hotel Association director Wei Chien-hua (韋建華) said he hopes the government will devise a plan to stimulate post-pandemic employment in the tourism industry.
The government should budget NT$2 trillion over the next five years to subsidize salaries in the sector, he said.
“The industry hires young people, and if those young people do not have employment, they will not have money to spend — which will have an economic impact,” he said.
Great River Queen cruise ship manager Lin Shu-fu (林書賦) said that cruise ship and recreational boating businesses have had to fully stop their operations, but are ineligible for relief funds.
Businesses in the sector could survive if the government offered loans and lower interest rates, he said.
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