The Tourism Bureau is considering canceling the minimum tour charge requirement for Chinese tourists if the nation sees steady growth of free independent travelers (FIT) from China, officials said on the weekend.
The proposed change in policy follows a cross-strait agreement reached earlier this month to allow residents of 10 more Chinese cities to visit Taiwan as FITs.
Currently, only Chinese from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen are allowed to travel as FITs. Based on the agreement, residents from Tianjin, Chongqing, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chengdu can starting visiting as FITs starting from Saturday next week. Those from Jinan, Xian, Fuzhou and Shenzhen are also expected to be allowed to travel as FITs some time before the end of this year.
To ensure quality service for tour groups from China, the Guidelines on Arranging Quality Tour Groups in Taiwan for Chinese Tourists stipulate that each Chinese tourist visiting through a tour group must not be charged less than US$60 a day.
Article 22 in the Regulations for Administration of Travel Agencies also bars travel agencies from charging commission fees on travelers' shopping or profiting from activities other than those in the original tour itinerary.
Chen Chiung-hua, deputy chief of the bureau's hotel, travel and training division, said the bureau would propose revising two regulations in response to the changes in the tourism market caused by the increase of international tourists.
âArticle 22 in the Regulations for Administration of Travel Agencies was stipulated to regulate the nation's travel agencies arranging overseas tours for Taiwanese. However, charging reasonable commission fees from travelers' shopping should be made an acceptable practice in the market,â Chen said.
âAnd out of all the international tourists, if we simply set minimum tour charges for Chinese tourists, it would mean that the government uses a price control strategy to meddle in market competition,â Chen added.
While Chen said that the bureau was moving toward lifting the US$60 daily tour charge requirement, she said that the bureau needed to develop well-rounded complementary measures before it could remove the requirement.
âThe travel agencies must continue to provide tour service of a quality comparable to the one they are offering now, even after the minimum tour charge no longer exists,â Chen said.
Taiwan started allowing Chinese FITs to enter the country beginning in June last year. As of March 31, about 165,000 Chinese tourists had applied for entry permits as FITs, of whom 57,000 have visited. On average, 201 Chinese FITs arrive daily.
No events will be staged to welcome the Chinese FITs from the six new source cities, Tourism Bureau Director-General David Hsieh said.
To help the Chinese FITs plan for their trips in Taiwan, the bureau said it would sponsor some experienced travelers from China to come and tour Taiwan as FITs. They will be asked to follow the travel plans they have proposed and post about their travel experiences in Taiwan on microblogs, Hsieh added.