Travel industry ready for ‘yellow alert’ on China


The travel industry and airlines said they were ready to cope with the repercussions of the Mainland Affairs Council’s (MAC) decision to raise the travel alert for China to yellow after Beijing confirmed its first case of swine flu in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

Tourism Bureau Deputy Director General David Hsieh said his agency would send out official notices informing travel agencies of the change.

MAC follows the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ three-color travel advisory.

A Yellow Alert means travelers should exercise caution.

The Tourism Bureau said travelers were entitled to cancel their group tour if they were scheduled to travel to countries on the “Yellow Alert” list and refunds for the tours should be handled under Article 27 of regulations governing the stipulations of standardized contracts between travel agents and their customers.

Customers who cancel their trips more than 31 days in advance are eligible for a 90 percent refund, while those who do so three weeks in advance are eligible for an 80 percent refund. Customers are entitled to a 50 percent refund if they call off their trip the day before the scheduled departure.

However, customers who wait until their scheduled departure date to cancel their trip will not be eligible for a refund.

Meanwhile, Roget Hsu, secretary-general of the Travel Agent Association, said the number of travelers heading to Sichuan dropped drastically after last May’s earthquake, although the numbers recently began picking up after China Airlines (CAL) and EVA Airways (EVA) started offering direct charter flights to Chengdu.

As some Chinese tourists from Sichuan arrived in Taiwan on charter flights, both CAL and EVA said yesterday they would comply with government efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.

CAL said it would sterilize aircraft returning from flights to H1N1-infected countries and would hand out face masks to passengers showing symptoms.

EVA said it would check if any passengers have a fever and provide face masks if necessary.