Taipei, March 25 (CNA) The government announced Tuesday that it will increase financial support for local airlines and tourism companies in the wake of the economic impact caused by the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease.
The transportation industry employs about 300,000 people nationwide, said Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), adding that it is the ministry's priority to support the sector and its employees.
Lin said the ministry will help airlines obtain loans of up to NT$50 billion (US$1.6 billion) instead of the previous NT$30 billion cap, while also subsidizing interest payments on such loans.
According to the latest analysis released Tuesday by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), annual passenger revenue is set to fall by US$252 billion if severe travel restrictions remain in place for three months.
That represents a 44 percent decline compared to 2019, and is well-over double IATA's previous analysis that a decline of NT$113 billion in revenue was likely, made before countries around the world introduced sweeping travel restrictions.
Lin also said the ministry has requested NT$10 billion for the tourism industry, with part of that already approved by the central government.
Included in the aid package is a monthly subsidy of NT$100,000 for nearly 4,000 travel agencies for up to three months, with NT$200,000 going to hotels and NT$50,000-NT$100,000 to bed and breakfast operators, to help them through the COVID-19 crisis.
There are also direct financial subsidies for employees in the travel sector of NT$10,000 per person per month, for three months, for up to 140,000 people.
Travel business operators said the subsidies are not enough but will help, adding that they are also launching initiatives to help themselves.
Lion Travel, one of the leading travel agencies in Taiwan, has announced that its board of directors will forgo their salaries, while senior executives are taking a voluntary 50 pay cut.
Lifetour and Formosa International Hotels (FIH) Group followed suit, and FIH Chairman Steven Pan (潘思亮) said he is thankful for the understanding and sacrifice of those impacted.