Travel agencies banned from trips to Philippines


By Joy Lee ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Tourism Bureau announced yesterday that all domestic travel agencies are banned from taking any tour groups to the Philippines after the Executive Yuan recently announced a “red” travel alert against the Philippines, one of eight second-stage sanctions issued against the Philippines over the shooting of a local fisherman in disputed waters.

According to the Tourism Bureau, travel agencies that violate this policy will receive a fine between NT$30,000 and NT$50,000.

The Tourism Bureau said all travel agencies are requested to stop issuing promotions or advertisements regarding travel to the Philippines.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs listed all of the Philippines as being in the “red” travel alert zone, according to the Tourism Bureau. This designation advises people to not travel to those areas. After the Tourism Bureau announced on Wednesday that tourists scheduled to go to the Philippines can receive full refunds after deducting a certain portion of fees, over 30 percent of tourists have decided to cancel their trips and apply for refunds, according to local travel agencies.

Local travel agencies, including Lion Travel (雄獅旅行社) and Cola Tours, said that over 30 percent of tourists chose to instead participate in tours to other countries with discounted prices, while other tourists have not altered their schedules on the assumption that the relationship between Taiwan and the Philippines will be resolved.

The Cabinet enacted the second stage of retaliatory measures on Wednesday. The Travel Agency Association (TAA) said that tours scheduled for Boracay and Cebu have been filled, with no openings available until July. Airlines, including Mandarin Airlines, Philippine Airlines, and Far Eastern Air Transport, have agreed to refund the payment of charter flights, the TAA said.

The TAA, however, said the association is still negotiating with hotels in the Philippines regarding refunds for cancelled reservations.

According to the TAA, around 210,000 Taiwanese visit the Philippines annually, which is about 5 percent of all Taiwanese travelers. Taiwanese tourists, however, make up the fifth largest group of travelers to the Philippines, the TAA said.

The TAA estimated that travel agencies will lose about NT$2.5 billion annually as a result of the sanctions.