Taiwan's tourism industry is expected to take a significant hit due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Travel agencies are already bearing the economic effects that would quickly trickle down to hotels and other parts of the industry.

MyTaiwanTour, a tour agency based in Taipei, has been facing cancellations since the end of Lunar New Year with no new bookings in sight.

“Our next order is only in June,” Michael Wu, founder and CEO of MyTaiwanTour, told The News Lens. The company mainly receives travelers from Europe, the United States, the Philippines, and Singapore.

With an 80-percent drop in booking rate, MyTaiwanTour is instead focusing on training its tour guides and educating employees.

“We could hold on like this for maybe another three months,” Wu said, expecting the tourism industry to bounce back in early June.

The Executive Yuan recently approved subsidy plans for the tourism and transportation industries, totaling NT$50 billion. According to the Ministry of Transportation and Communication, tour companies that were affected by China’s travel ban or flight cancellations in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Italy would be prioritized.

Chou Yung-hui (周永暉), the director of the Tourism Bureau, said he hopes the industry would use the government subsidies to provide employee training rather than enforcing unpaid leave.

A large portion of the special budget would be dedicated to “upgrading and transforming” Taiwan's tourism industry, according to the Executive Yuan.

For tour operators like MyTaiwanTour, modernizing and transforming tourism would include propelling a digitalization of tourism in Taiwan and improving travel-related content in English.

In August 2019, the Executive Yuan also announced a NT$3.6 billion subsidy plan for the tourism sector as a response to China’s travel ban on Taiwan several months before the presidential election.

According to Wu, a lot of foreigners seem to make no distinction between Taiwan and China. Taiwan has been lumped in with China over travel bans due to World Health Organization and the United Nation’s refusal to recognize Taiwan independently.

MyTaiwanTour will attempt to persuade travelers through a content plan that informs readers on the coronavirus situation in Taiwan. Wu is particularly keen on highlighting Taiwan’s relative success in curbing the outbreak. “Wearing face masks, checking the body temperature of people at important checkpoints, and using rubbing alcohol are no novelties in Taiwan,” he said.

“Ironically, it might be the best time to visit Taiwan now,” Wu said. “All the must-see locations are pretty empty.”

Currently there are 24 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Taiwan, with one recorded death.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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