Tourism workers take to streets amid sharp decline of Chinese tourists

Around 20,000 tourism industry workers took to the streets in Taipei Monday, calling for "survival, a job and a living wage" after months of a sharp decline in the number of Chinese tourists has dealt a serious blow to local tourism.

In the first such move by tourism sector workers, the marchers braved rain brought by approaching Typhoon Meranti to gather at Huashan 1914 Creative Park near the Executive Yuan at 2 p.m., with many of them bringing their families along.

Wearing white hats with bands that read "survival, jobs and a living wage," they marched toward Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office.

Arriving at Ketagalan Boulevard, they sang songs to demonstrate the dire straits of falling tourist numbers despite their many efforts. They also performed a number of skits to highlight their plight.

The participants said they were not seeking monetary subsidies, but want the government to "address squarely the fact that the survival of the tourism industry is at risk."

They urged the government to adopt more substantive measures to tap tourist resources, such as expanding tourism markets for local people, advertising in China, waiving visa requirements for 10 countries from Southeast Asian nations, and delay loan repayments by tourism operators for one year.

Huang Shih-tsung (???), a tour guide with Kaohsiung-based Castle Tours (?????), said that "previously, we could make a living, but now we cannot," adding that their hope is simply to have work.

"The incumbent government has blotted out all our past efforts, so we have travelled north to voice our appeal," Huang said.

A tourism operator who would only give his surname of Hsu said that a lot of tour bus drivers have been on unpaid leave since May 20, when the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party government under Tsai Ing-wen (???) took office.

A significant number of guides are also looking for jobs, and the tourism sector is facing a bleak winter, Hsu said.

In fact, the hard times have begun ever since the end of the Jan. 16 presidential election, Hsu said.

Kaohsiung hotel, souvenir shop and restaurant operators, who arrived aboard 20 buses, as well as tourism workers from around the island, joined the march.

Lin Hsiao-chou (???), a restaurant operator from the resort area of Alishan, said that the number of Chinese tourists has dropped by at least 80 percent in the hot scenic spots for mainland tourists, dealing the local tourism sector a serious blow.

His restaurant used to employ more than 30 workers, but only around 10 remain, he said.

Lin expressed hope that politics will not interfere with people's lives, adding that all he wants is a "stable life and a living wage."

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel