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Taiwan hotelier says border reopening matter of great urgency

Nation’s tourism industry hardest hit sector during pandemic

Leofoo Tourism Group Chairwoman Lulu Chuang (Leofoo Tourism Group photo)

Leofoo Tourism Group Chairwoman Lulu Chuang (Leofoo Tourism Group photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwan tourism group head has called for the government to moderately relax border restrictions, saying it is a matter of great urgency as the country’s hotel industry is in trouble.

In a recent interview with CNA, Leofoo Tourism Group Chairwoman Lulu Chuang (莊豐如) urged the government to follow the examples of the U.S. and U.K. in loosening border controls as vaccination rates reach certain levels.

Chuang said Taipei has been especially impacted, as the city relies greatly on international visitors. She shared that occupancy rates at the Courtyard by Marriott Taipei in Nangang District fluctuated between 10-20% during the peak of the pandemic, while Leofoo Village Theme Park closed its doors from May to July to comply with government policies.

“Last year, we made a prompt decision to convert the Leofoo Hotel and Leofoo Residences into quarantine hotels” in order to maintain stable sources of guests and earnings. The Courtyard by Marriott Taipei had also recently transformed into a quarantine hotel, she added.

Taiwan’s tourism industry, which is often labeled as “dying,” has been longing for the borders to reopen, the newspaper wrote.

“Taiwan should not lock the country in order to pursue zero confirmed cases,” Chuang said. She added that as the country’s vaccination rates climb, the government should do more than just hand out stimulus vouchers; it should also plan on moderately relaxing border restrictions to attract foreign investment and visitors, which she called a matter of great urgency.

Citing the examples of other countries, she said the U.K. has allowed travelers from low-risk countries with negative PCR test results to enter since July when its two-dose vaccination rate reached 49%. With a 54% two-dose vaccination rate, the U.S. plans to soon open its borders to vaccinated travelers, she added.

Australia, where 50% of the population has been fully vaccinated, has shortened the required quarantine time for arriving travelers to seven days, she said. She went on to add that Taiwan’s Asian neighbors, such as Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea, have all instituted different degrees of border relaxation.

Humans must eventually learn to live with the virus, the chairwoman said, adding that she looked forward to a resurgence of tourism and better days for the Leofoo group, which is taking a multi-pronged approach to create customer demand.

In a separate interview, Taiwan Tourist Hotel Association Director Hsiao Ching-tien (蕭景田) told CNA that the vaccination rate is the key to the border reopening. He said that Taiwan has currently achieved a 60% first-dose vaccination rate and a 20% second-dose rate. He added that the country’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) is aiming to bring the second-dose rate up to 60% by the end of the year.

It’s time for the government to follow the examples of other countries and make a plan for the moderate loosening of border controls, such as allowing fully vaccinated international travelers to skip quarantine if they pass rapid screening tests, he said.