When you go to travel, what would be the things you concern? Food, scenery, or cost of travel?

After the Taoyuan Bus Fire happened in July 2016 which killed 26 people (BBC, 2016), numbers of Chinese tourist and Taiwanese citizens started concern about the safety of the tourist groups in Taiwan. However, they still did not concern the person who would closely related to the safety of the tourist group, which is the bus driver.

Taiwan is one of the Four Little Dragons that enjoy her significant economic growth in 1980s, and tourism is one of the emerging industry in Taiwanese economic development. However, even in this developed region, did the labour also enjoy the fruit of their prosperous in tourism development?

According to the figure of the Executive Yuan, the GDP income of Taiwanese tourism had been doubled since 2008 to 2015, and reached US$ 14.3 billion. The number of tourist visiting Taiwan had also tripled from 3 million people in 2008 to 10 million people in 2015 (Executive Yuan, 2016). Under such kind of background, the labour in Taiwanese tourism ought to be well-treated nowadays.

However, the truth is on the opposite side. The working condition of a Taiwanese tourist group bus driver could be very harsh. A typical driver who work for a Chinese tourist group would need to drive for over 8 consecutive days, as most of the Chinese tourist group would have an itinerary throughout the whole island. For each day, they would need to drive at least 14 hours, sometime even reach 16 hours, as the tourist group would go out at 7 in the morning, and back to hotel at 9-10 at night. (Chiang, 2016)

As a result, a driver could only have about 6 hours to sleep. Then how about their sleeping environment? It could be really bad as well. As the travel agents aimed to minimized their cost, bus drivers always need to share room with other drivers and tour guides. Living with a people who have different living habits could make a really bad resting experience for the drivers.

Tourist buses parked in a row at the parking lot in Taipei
Buses waiting for tourists.

Even for their lunch, they had to be rushed. The tourist group usually have about 1 hour of lunchtime. However, when they having lunch in the downtown area, it is hard to find a parking place for bus. Therefore, drivers often grab only 10 dumplings, and then search a parking place for about 20 minutes. After they have a quick lunch, they then would rush for picking up the tourists. As a result, the drivers did not get enough food and rest, and he had to work again for the full day. (Chiang, 2016)

“We affect the safety of a whole tourist group, but we could not enjoy a reasonable working condition.”

Under such a high workload, Taiwanese tourist group bus driver definitely deserve a high income. However, the truth is the income of those bus drivers could be extremely unstable. A driver could only have about US$464 of monthly salary at the lowest point, which is far behind their minimum wage, which is US$659 per month. The remaining part that a driver could earn is fully depends on tips given by the tourist, as well as commission from tourist who bought local souvenirs. (Chiang, 2016)

“Why didn’t the situation became better even there is a growth of income in tourism?” The reason is quite simple, the growth of tourism income actually comes from the blood, sweat and tears from the labour in tourism.

Since 2008, numbers of Chinese background tourism enterprise came into Taiwan. Under their operation mode, they would offer huge discount, or even operating “free tourist group” to attract customers. As a result, they had to minimize the operating cost in order to maintain their profit. One of the way is just to cut the cost in wage and operating cost related to drivers. Drivers had to drive old models of buses, share hotel rooms with stranger. (Wu, 2016)

As a result, the tourist from mainland China had constantly increase, and profit from the tourism in Taiwan had also grow steadily. However, this is based on low-cost operation mode, and victims are actually the workers in tourism. The situation is just like Karl Marx said, the Chinese tourism enterprises holds “means of production”, and “exploited” the working class in Taiwanese tourism industry. Enterprises in a communist state is actually behave in a capitalist way.

“Then how about the consumers? Did the tourist concern on the working situation of the bus drivers?” The answer is no.

General Economy Ahead Of Taiwan Presidential Election
Chinese tourist in Taiwan.

For most of the tourists, they only concern about the scenery and food of Taiwan. Some of them would concern about the bus, but they would like to know would the bus provide Wi-Fi or USB charger for them, instead of concerning would the bus provide a comfortable environment for driver. (Wu, 2016)

Since the inauguration of the new Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who strongly promoted the Taiwanese identity, the Chinese government had tried to isolating Taiwan by cutting down the number of Chinese tourist group to Taiwan (Smith, 2016). As a result, travel agents had to further cut down the operation cost of each tourist group. It seems that the working condition and salary of a bus driver would be continue to worsen.

“The future of the bus drivers just like a severe winter.”
Said by a Taiwanese bus driver.

Even in a developed country, the labours are hard to share the fruit of the prosperous economy, let alone the developing countries. Chinese capital in Taiwanese tourism shows that the labours may not really benefit from the globalisation of industries. It is important to think how to let the labour become a winner from economic development as well. At least, we may pay attention to the bus driver and tour guides when we going to travel.

—– Wai Lun SO (M00601209)

 

Bibliography

BBC. 2016. Chinese tourists die in Taiwan bus fire. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-36832232[Accessed 24 November 2016].

Chiang, J. 2016. 當陸客遊玩、吃飯、睡覺時,遊覽車司機在做什麼? Available at: https://theinitium.com/article/20160726-taiwan-mainland-tourists-killed/[Accessed 24 November 2016].

Marx, K. Capital. 1976. Capital: a critique of political economy. Penguin; New Left Review.

Smith, N. 2016. China Is Using Tourism to Hit Taiwan Where It Really Hurts. TIMES. Available at: http://time.com/4574290/china-taiwan-tourism-tourists/[Accessed 24 November 2016].

Wu, Y. 2016. 我父親是遊覽車司機,我目睹中資一條龍怎麼讓台灣旅遊業生病? Available at: https://www.twreporter.org/a/opinion-tourist-car-safety[Accessed 24 November 2016].

 

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