Gov’t urged to allow more self-guided Chinese tourists


TAIPEI–Taiwan should allow visits by more self-guided travelers from China to help improve the quality of tours and create more business opportunities, an official from the Asia Pacific Tourism Association suggested recently.

Since Taiwan opened to Chinese tourists in 2008, over 95 percent have visited in groups, said Li Ming-hui, Taiwan’s representative in the association and a former president of Taiwan Hospitality and Tourism College.

In China, there are only 200 travel agencies that offer trips to Taiwan, while there are 1,000 agencies in Taiwan vying to organize tours for Chinese visitors, Li said.

He said a series of problems have arisen from the resulting price competition, damaging the quality of tourism in Taiwan.

Li noted that Taiwan’s tourism bureau had suggested a minimum tour group price of US$80 per day per Chinese visitor, but later dropped it to US$65.

In some cases, the tour group price has been as low as US$25 per person per day, which means travel agencies in Taiwan have to focus on shopping trips to make a profit, he said.

If Taiwan opens its market to more self-guided travelers from China, it will remove the constraints on the type of tours offered, improve the quality, and allow more travelers to see the real face of Taiwan, he said.

Hong Kong travel agencies, which are allowed to operate in Taiwan, are the most successful at organizing Chinese group tours in Taiwan, according to Li.

They usually organize shopping trips and take Chinese visitors to souvenir and art and craft stores funded by Hong Kong investors, he said.

High-profit products such as diamonds, coral, jade and Taiwanese tea are the most popular sale items as tour guides earn commissions for promoting them, Li said.

Taiwan recorded 2.6-million visits by Chinese group travelers last year and just over 220,000 by self-guided Chinese travelers, according to the tourism bureau,

The free self-guided travel program was expanded from three to 13 Chinese cities last year, helping to increase the average number of self-guided Chinese travelers per year from 30,000 to over 190,000, Li said.

He urged the government to seek cooperation with more Chinese cities in an effort to expand the tourism market.

Visitors from China spent over NT$150 billion (US$5.17 billion) in Taiwan last year, according to Yao Ta-kuang, chairman of the Travel Agent Association of the R.O.C.

No doubt, that has helped boost Taiwan’s economy, Yao said. But he said that although there has been an increase in the number of hotels, tour buses and restaurants to meet demand, most Chinese tourists still flock to Sun Moon Lake, Alisan and Taroko Gorge.

The government should create more tourist attractions, he said.

In order to improve the quality of Taiwan’s tourism, the tourism bureau has set up new regulations that include limiting the daily number of Chinese visitors to 4,000 on average.

Earlier this year, the bureau also announced plans to limit the number of shopping trips and the time allocated for them in group tours for Chinese visitors.

It is proposing that, effective April, shopping be limited to four one-hour trips on the itinerary for an 8-day tour, and three one-hour trips for six-day tours.

In addition, travel agencies that book hotels with star ratings will find it easier to obtain government approval for their Chinese tours, the bureau said.