Workers in Taiwan protest decline in mainland tourists
Hundreds of Taiwan workers in tourism-related businesses rallied in Taipei on Monday to drawattention to a sharp decline in visitors from the Chinese mainland that is putting their industry under heavy strain.
Workers marched down a central street in Taipei before gathering atasquarein front of theTaiwanleader’s office building. They called for the preservation of jobs and assistance to the industry, including allowing the owners of tour buses to delay their loan payments.
“We only want the right to work. If (mainland tourists) do not come, we cannot work. This is just our need,’’ said tour guide DebbyHuang, 41.
“We want to survive”, “We ask for jobs”, “We need food and shelter” and “No jobs, no life” read some of the signs protesters held up as they marched through rain to the square.
“God is weeping for us,” protest organizer Ringo Lee called out to the crowd.
“He is weeping for hundreds of thousands of our families that are being affected.”
The sector was hit by a fire on a bus in July that killed 24 mainland tourists on their way to the island’s main airport.
On Saturday, investigators released a report on the cause of the accident, saying the inferno that engulfed the bus was not sparked by a crash but by the driver, who poured gasoline inside the bus and locked its emergency exits before setting it alight in what prosecutors said was an act of suicide.
The tourism workers also urged the authorities to encourage visits and allow visa-free entry for travelers from the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations as an inducement.
The number of mainland visitors has fallen after independence-leaning leader Tsai Ing-wen took office inMay.
Accidents and an unwelcoming attitude among some Taiwan residents have been blamed in part for the decline in mainland visitors.
Official figures show that the number of visitors from the mainland has fallen by 22 percent since Tsai’s election, compared with the same period last year. Mainland travelers made up about 40 percent of tourist arrivals last year.
The island’s authorities have already offered almost $960 million to bail out the industry.