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Cooperation across strait urged to boost condition of tourism

TAIPEI -- Tourism operators in China and Taiwan should work together to eliminate destructive price competition, Taiwan's Tourism Bureau said, after tour bus drivers hit a Chinese tourist in a dispute attributed to the poor quality of the cheap tour.

Tourism operators across the Taiwan Strait should stop offering cheap packages that try to make up for the low prices by getting visitors to buy things at designated stores, said Chang Shi-chung, the bureau's deputy director-general.

Chinese travel agents, in particular, should provide more transparent information about the itineraries their customers will experience in Taiwan, he said.

Tighter control at the point of sale of tour packages is needed to maintain quality, Chang said at a press briefing joined by representatives from the Travel Agent Association of R.O.C., Taiwan, the Travel Quality Assurance Association and the National Joint Association of Bus for Tourist of R.O.C.

“The system needs a reshuffle. Otherwise inspections are just like sending cats to chase after the mice blind,” he said, referring to investigating cases like this and punishing those involved after the fact.

A woman from China was beaten by two tour bus drivers on July 30 in Taitung County after overhearing the drivers and her tour guide talking about her disparagingly at a rest stop, according to the bureau.

She verbally confronted the men, and the two drivers began hitting her on the head, witnesses said.

The Chinese tourist had apparently irritated the driver and tour guide on two counts.

She kept asking to make a side trip on her own away from the group, which is against the law in Taiwan, reportedly to meet a male friend who was following the tour bus in a separate car.

She also refused to buy anything at shopping centers during the tour while also dissuading other tourists from making purchases, costing the travel agency money, the bureau said.

Each of the 15-member group was charged less than NT$20,000 (US$665) for the eight-day tour, and they were expected to make up the tour operator's losses by shopping at designated stores, according to the Taitung County government's Tourism Department.

Such tours were supposed to be a thing of the past after China's Tourism Law took effect last October.

Under the law, travel groups are prohibited from luring tourists with low prices then making up the difference through commissions from shops to which they bring their tour groups or by requiring additional payment for certain services.

By forcing the price of tour packages higher, the law was expected to lower the number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan. Tourist numbers fell 30 percent year-on-year to 19,698 from Oct. 1 to 7, 2013, the first week the law was in effect, according to the Tourism Bureau.

But Chinese visitor numbers are up in 2014 from a year earlier, and the latest incident shows that low-price tours continue to peddle shopping outings to make extra money.

To prevent similar incidents that may be sparked by low-quality travel experiences, Chang said the bureau will solicit more opinions from Chinese tourists.

The bureau will also reduce shopping outings offered to Chinese tour groups, starting Oct. 1, he said.

Chinese tour groups are allowed to be taken on seven shopping excursions during an eight-day tour, but that will be reduced to six in the future, Chang said.

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