TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- DPP Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) said in a Transportation Committee meeting on Monday that subsidies intended to support the tourism industry during the downturn in Chinese visitor arrivals has led to more than a few questionable applications from travel agencies, indicating abuse of the program and loopholes in the application process.
The NT$300 million (US$9.8 million) plan introduced by the Executive Yuan last year was supposed to subsidize tours around Taiwan, but the program fell short of expectations and only generated NT$1.2 billion, according to Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦).
Huang said that the top 10 travel agencies to receive subsidies were problematic as many were owned by the same person, and in some cases the tours, hotel, restaurant and bus company were all owned by the same person. He added that the applicant either split one tour group into five smaller ones or used the same tour group twice to request subsidies. He believes that among those top 10 travel agencies, there are only actually four or five companies.
Six hundred travel agencies applied for the subsidies, according to Tourism Bureau statistics.
Tourism Bureau Director-General Chou Yung-hui (周永暉) said that as only 20 percent of the subsidies have been paid out, there is time to review applications and fix loopholes in the program. The bureau has a limit on the number of subsidies handed out each month, which he said should make the problem easier to correct.
Huang asked whether the bureau could force travel agents to return subsidies that were acquired with fraudulent applications. “All the travel agencies had to sign an affidavit when they requested the subsidies. If they have fabricated the details of the tours they will be asked to return the money,” Chou said.
Chou added that travel agencies are banned from operating tour bus companies, and that the Tourism Bureau and Directorate-General of Highways would identify the discrepancies in subsidy applications.