Tour guides demonstrate for working rights

By Queena Yen, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — About 600 local tour guides and supporters demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) yesterday, saying that their working rights have been compromised by the opening of the tourism market to mainland Chinese individual travelers.

Wearing white T-shirts saying “I am a tour guide and I love Taiwan,” the guides demanded the abolishment of the Tourism Bureau and removal of Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時). They said they hope the government will carry out an investigation into illegal tourist agencies to ensure their working rights. In addition, they asked for the government to arrange a special service designed specifically to deal with mainland Chinese visitors in the future. According to the Taiwan Tourism Industry Association (台灣旅遊觀光產業工會), there are about 30,000 local tourist guides who pass the national exam and gain official certification to provide tours in Taiwan. However, there is currently not enough demand to keep all of the guides gainfully employed. The association’s statistics show that around 4,000 tour guides will be needed during the high season in April and October, yet only 600-700 tour guides are necessary for the low season.

Jing Yun-lung (井雲龍), director of the association, said the rights of local tour guides have been compromised since the government has hastily prepared overreaching policies regarding individual Chinese tourists, resulting in an abundance of low-priced tour packages.

“This phenomenon has damaged the reputation of Taiwan’s tourism industry. It also has a negative impact on the quality of the travel industry,” said Jing.

MOTC Response In response to the complaints, the Tourism Bureau plans to set up new regulations. Apart from opening the limitation for tour guides to lead individual visitors, the Tourism Bureau will prepare supporting measures to insure the working rights of local tour guides.

According to Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰), deputy director-general of the Tourism Bureau, the transportation minister is keeping a close eye on the issue and has appointed the Tourism Bureau to organize a national tourism association, which will give support to local tour guides. Chang further stated that the future of local tourism lies with individual travelers from mainland China. Although the government has opened the market to individual visitors, it has not changed the limits for the number of group tourists. In addition, the Tourism Bureau also plans to put into place new rules to not only support local tour guides but also to keep an eye on the quality of the tourism industry in Taiwan.