Travel industry subsidies end as focus shifts to revival

BORDER PARADOX:
A travel representative expressed frustration as the government moves to revitalize the tourism industry without setting a border reopening date

  • By Shelley Shan / Staff Reporter

The government is not extending subsidies to travel agents as it switches focus to rebooting the tourism industry, Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said on Wednesday.

Wang and Tourism Bureau Director-General Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰) on Wednesday evening spoke with representatives from the Travel Agent Association, Travel Quality Assurance Association and local travel associations on the status of the tourism industry.

Representatives suggested that the ministry should continue subsidizing salaries in the tourism sector until the border is fully reopened upon COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Photo courtesy of the Tourism Bureau

However, the government has progressed toward revitalizing the tourism industry rather than offering relief, and the government does not have enough funds to subsidize salaries, Wang was quoted by the ministry as saying.

The Special Act for Prevention, Relief and Revitalization Measures for Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens (嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例) is to expire on June 30, and the bureau’s Tourism Development Fund is supplied by a bank loan and cannot be used for subsidies, he said.

The Tourism Bureau has finalized eight key international tourism marketing guidelines for the post-pandemic era following a three-day meeting this week, it said yesterday.

Those guidelines include inviting travel reporters, key opinion leaders in the global travel industry, and airlines and travel agencies from other countries to visit Taiwan and experience what the country has to offer, it said.

However, for the local travel industry to revive, it requires the border to be reopened, industry experts said yesterday at a forum.

“The government should flexibly adjust the border control policy based on changes in Taiwan and other countries,” said Taiwan International Tourist Aid Rescue Association chairman Roget Hsu (許高慶). “For example, it could negotiate a two-way travel bubble arrangement with Japan and then add other destinations.”

“I think the reason the government is afraid of reopening borders now is that children under the age of 12 remain unvaccinated,” said Taiwan Tourist Hotel Association Secretary General Chuo Chien-hui (卓倩慧).

“The government should realize that borders must one day reopen as it is crucial for Taiwan’s economy and people’s existence,” she added.

In addition to raising vaccination rates at all age levels, the government should allow trial tours to designated countries in ways that protect the health of local communities, she said.

Taiwan Tourism Development Association deputy chairman Ko Mu-chou (柯牧洲) said that tourism subsidies should continue until the border is reopened, and expressed frustration over the government not giving clear answers whenever asked when border restrictions would be lifted.

“The travel industry has lost nearly 70 percent of its workers in the past two years,” Ko said.

The government’s “administrative inertia has prevented any scientific discussion” on travel restrictions, he said.

“Our suggestions about reopening borders are being ignored,” he added.

Starting today, Singapore joins eight other Asian countries in opening is borders to fully vaccinated international visitors, although they must still obtain a negative COVID-19 test result within two days before departure.

Travelers to Singapore do not need to quarantine or undergo other tests on arrival.

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