The Tourism Bureau is to soon propose lifting a ban on inbound and outbound tours as the nation seeks to resume normal life amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said yesterday.
Wang made the remarks after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Sunday told the Democratic Progressive Party National Congress that her administration is seeking to revitalize the economy by carefully assessing the best time to reopen borders to international travelers.
Newly appointed head of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) Victor Wang (王必勝) yesterday also said that the center’s main goals would include easing disease prevention measures and reopening borders.
Photo: CNA
Asked whether the border could be reopened next month, Wang said on the sidelines of a tourism forum that he has asked the Tourism Bureau to study how the ban on inbound and outbound tours imposed in March 2020 should be lifted and to submit a proposal.
“It is only a matter of time before the borders are reopened,” Wang said. “Our job is to make ourselves ready and we will respect the center’s assessment on the outbreaks in other nations caused by the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 of SARS-CoV-2.”
The tourism industry “needs to be patient” as it can grow sustainably if borders are reopened when the virus is under control, he said.
The bureau has stipulated disease prevention guidelines for inbound and outbound tours, and organized educational sessions for tour guides, many of whom left the business during the pandemic, he added.
The domestic tourism subsidy program is a “warm-up exercise” for operators to prepare them to host overseas travelers, Wang said.
The Maritime and Port Bureau is studying whether cruise ship tours should recommence as well, he said.
“We welcome all international cruise ship operators to return to Taiwan,” he said, adding that the government has shored up port facilities to host cruise ship travelers.
Tourism Bureau Director-General Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰) said the bureau has yet to finalize the draft of a proposal for lifting the ban on outbound and inbound tours.
“We are dealing with two different markets here: The first is about Taiwanese tourists joining group tours to travel overseas, while the second involves issuing tourist visas to foreigners to travel to Taiwan,” Chang said. “We believe that both markets should be simultaneously reopened. We cannot reopen borders to allow international visitors to enter the nation, but prohibit our own citizens from traveling overseas.”
The bureau is to propose two options — allow international travelers to visit before allowing Taiwanese tourists to travel overseas, or lift the bans on both outbound and inbound tourists simultaneously, he said.
“We hope that outbound and inbound tours can be resumed at the same time, but we will respect the decision made by center if it thinks that inbound and outbound tours should be resumed separately,” he said.
The bureau is preparing to resume outbound and inbound tours, he added.
“The center is reviewing our proposed disease prevention guidelines for organizing inbound and outbound tours, and we have trained more than 10,000 tour guides and tour organizers to make sure that the market has an adequate supply of personnel,” Chang said.
The bureau plans to promote tours to Taiwan by hosting tourism exchange conferences with other nations, and inviting overseas media outlets and Internet celebrities to visit Taiwan, he said.
Additional reporting by Lee I-chia
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