Japan to help solve tour bus problem in Hokkaido

Taipei, July 5 (CNA) Japan will set up a dedicated channel to help solve the problem of insufficient tour buses in Hokkaido, a favorite destination of Taiwanese tourists in the summer, the Interchange Association said Friday. The Taipei Office of the association, the de facto embassy of Japan in the absence of diplomatic ties, said Japan has agreed to arrange for tour buses from other parts of the country to support Hokkaido's transportation needs and handle the summer influx of tourists, the office said. The office said Japan has decided to set up a single contact channel to communicate directly with Taiwan's Travel Agents' Association (TAA) to handle problems as they arise. If Taiwan's travel agents have any complaints, they should talk to the TAA, and the TAA will coordinate with the contact channel to secure as many buses as possible. The office was responding to complaints by the TAA, which earlier called a news conference to criticize Japan for failing to help solve the issue. "The issue has been dragging on for nearly a week, and Japan is still holding firm to its position that tour buses in the Tohoku (northeastern) region cannot cross over to drive buses in Hokkaido," the association said. The TAA said Japan lacked sincerity in dealing with the problem, and it threatened to cancel 80 tour groups by the end of July. TAA Secretary-General Hsu Kao-ching said it was only natural for Taiwanese travel operators to be angry with the Japanese side because they have been plagued by the problem daily since the beginning of the month. Hsu did acknowledge that the number of Taiwanese traveling to Hokkaido this summer has nearly doubled to 50,000, putting pressure on the availability of buses in the region. The number of tourists to other places in Japan is also large, and this is one of the reasons why arranging tour buses has been difficult, Hsu said. (By Lin Shen-hsu and Lilian Wu)