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May 27, 2017

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Legislator alleges that travel agencies lied to secure gov't funding

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) on Monday revealed that travel agencies have been illegally applying for government subsidies, once again bringing into focus the need for reform in the domestic travel industry.

To counteract the decline in Chinese visitors since the pro-independence leaning DPP took office last May, the Cabinet launched an emergency initiative last November to fund travel agencies that host mainly Chinese visitors with an NT$300 million fund.

The policy is intended to promote the domestic tourism industry by supporting travel agencies in adapting to the new climate and encouraging nationals to choose group trips over backpacking.

Huang on Monday accused some travel agencies of forging tour information to get government subsidies.

He demanded an investigation into the tourism bureau so as to clarify whether government officials have been colluded with travel agencies in order to cheat money from the government.

Fabricated Details

Huang said that so far 600 travel agencies have applied for the fund.

"Having gone through the application documents of the top ten travel agencies that reportedly host the highest numbers of tours," he discovered "several travel agencies had the same founder, or that all owners of the related businesses in one tour, for instance the restaurants, hotels, bus companies, were the same person."

This action is suspected to be a measure taken by companies to circumvent a rule stipulating that one travel agency is restricted to applying for subsidy to no more than 20 tours per month.

"Furthermore, some agencies reportedly hosted five tours when there was only one. And there were also fabricated driving record," Huang said, explaining that he found photographs of the same batch of people at the same location but attached for different applications.

In the documents filed by Chieh Li Travel Service Co. (捷利旅行社), Huang claimed to have found a driver who was also working for other travel agencies on the same day.

Huang further questioned how the tourism bureau could have signed off these applications when the flaws were so clear.

"The Control Yuan should investigate whether government officials have been helping businessmen and travel agencies in securing government funds."

In response, MOTC Minister Ho Chen Tan told the Transportation Committee at the Legislative Yuan on Monday that the ministry will probe the matter and report in two months, and will recall any subsidies given if evidence proves that travel agencies have fabricated tour details.

Tourism Bureau Director Chou Yung-hui (周永暉) said later on Monday that 20 percent of the total applications have been approved so far, but no abnormalities in the applications had been found.

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