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Taiwan's travel industry will be hit hard by Japan quake

2011/03/16 21:19:58

Taipei, March 16 (CNA) Taiwan's travel industry is bracing itselffor a severe shakedown in the aftermath of the magnitude 9.0earthquake in Japan, with an anticipated revenue loss of NT$8 billion(US$270.7 million).

Peng Hung-hsiang, head of the committee on travel disputeconciliation at the Taipei-based Travel Quality AssuranceAssociation, said Wednesday that Japan had been one of the mostpopular tourist destinations for Taiwanese tourists, and that manyhad planned to visit during the peak season for cherry blossomsbetween mid-March and mid-April.

Now, with much of Japan on high alert over possible radiationleaks from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, those who havebooked tour packages have been canceling them one after another.

"Currently, we have full-scale withdrawals under way fromJapan-bound tour groups, " Peng said, with cancellations extendinginto tour packages booked for the end of May.

Travel Agent Association Chairman Yao Ta-kuang indicated thattravel agents had counted on 50,000 Taiwanese to go on tour groupsfor cherry blossoms in Japan this year.

Based on the average cost of NT$40,000 per person for a Japanesetour, if all those tourists canceled their reservations, the sectorwould sustain a loss of NT$2 billion in revenues, Yao said.

"The loss would increase to NT$5 billion if we includecancellations by independent travelers," he added.

In addition, the number of Japanese visitors to Taiwan is alsoexpected to drop. Yao said that in past years, at least 50,000Japanese tourists came to Taiwan during their weeklong holiday inlate April. But now, with Japan facing massive devastation, with over3,300 dead and 6,700 missing, few would want to leave their countryto visit Taiwan for sightseeing.

He estimates the expected drop of Japanese visitors will hurt thetourism industry by another NT$3 billion.

Yao said this all adds up to an NT$8 billion loss to theindustry.

Peng, from the Travel Quality Assurance Association, clarifiedthat businesses will not be shouldering all of the losses.

"Consumers must still be prepared to pay NT$5,000 for eachcancellation" of their booked seats in tour groups, he said.

Currently, there are over 100 small and medium-sized tour agentsin Taiwan who rely on sales of Japan-bound packages, according toPeng.

He said these companies are expected to be fine before the end ofMay, but no one can guarantee their survival after that.

(By Chen Shun-hsieh and Elizabeth Hsu)