The nation has no plans to open its borders to international tourists next month, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.
Su made the remarks after travel industry representatives met with Vice President William Lai (賴清德) on Monday, asking the government to announce a specific timeline on when borders would be reopened.
They also asked the government to continue subsidizing the travel industry for fully complying with the nation’s disease prevention policy.
Photo: CNA
“Our current policy of having zero severe cases of COVID-19 while controlling a rise in confirmed cases with mild symptoms is unchanged, but we will gradually and steadily relax disease prevention measures,” Su said, in response to a question from Chinese Nationalist Party Legislator (KMT) Fu Kun-chi (傅崐萁).
Su also denied that the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) is to cease operations in June.
“The CECC helps monitor the local COVID-19 outbreak, which remains stable at the moment,” Su said. “While we have seen an increase in confirmed cases, 99.6 percent of them reported no or mild symptoms.”
Su’s remarks were expected, as the government is unlikely to reopen the nation’s borders amid a domestic outbreak of COVID-19, Travel Quality Assurance Association (TQAA) chairman Ringo Lee (李奇嶽) said.
“Aside from raising the percentage of people receiving booster shots, the government must tell the public clearly what its policy will be going forward, whether it is pursuing a policy of ‘zero COVID’ or ‘living with the virus,’” Lee said.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said earlier this year that removing quarantine requirements for all international visitors is unlikely this year, Lee said.
No foreign tourists will visit Taiwan as long as the quarantine requirement stays, regardless of the length of the quarantine, he said.
The same rule applies to outbound tourists, he added.
In other news, TQAA warned that disputes between local tourists and travel agencies are expected to soar next month as people cancel tours in the face of rising numbers of locally transmitted cases.
About 20 to 30 percent of domestic tour groups have been canceled because of the latest outbreak, Lee said, adding that tour sales have dropped 50 percent compared with before the spike in COVID-19 cases.
Most cancelations came from schools and government agencies, he said, adding that private companies have postponed corporate tours as well.
While travel agencies can negotiate with tourists about postponing tours, the most complicated part is when trips cannot be postponed and tourists want to cancel the trips altogether, Lee said.
Lee cited as an example a family of eight who wanted to cancel a family trip because one of them received a notice to observe self-health management guidelines.
The family and the travel agency settled the dispute over refunds through arbitration at the association, he said.
The association receives about 40 to 50 telephone calls per day inquiring about tour cancelations and refunds, association secretary-general Amy Wu (吳美惠) said.
“People need to realize that they will incur fees for canceling tours without a legitimate reason,” Wu said, adding that reservation fees for air tickets and accommodation are non-refundable.
“If negotiations between travelers, travel agencies, hoteliers and airlines fail to produce any agreement, we will have to settle the dispute based on terms of standardized contracts between travelers and travel agencies,” Wu said.
Travelers who are required to quarantine or cancel school trips because of the government’s disease prevention policy will receive a refund after non-refundable fees are deducted, the association said.
Should travelers cancel tours for personal reasons, they will receive a refund after deducting non-refundable fees and compensation to travel agencies for losses based on the interval between the cancelation date and the departure date for the trip, it said.
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