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Mayor Ko Speaks at 2019 International Forum on Metropolitan Travel and Accommodation

TourShow     At the morning session of the 2019 International Forum for the Development of Trends on Metropolitan Travel and Accommodation on January 17, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je pointed out that the occupancy rates of Taipei city tourist hotels are around 70%, and around 60% for general hotels. But in recent years, the internet has given rise to the worldwide sharing economy, including online reservation platforms such as Airbnb. Ever the straight talker, he added that if the hotel occupancy rate stood at 90% today, today’s forum would probably not be held at all.
     Ko noted that Taipei has 634 hotels offering a total of 41,463 rooms, which is roughly a 50% increase over the past seven years. The additional capacity was built on overly optimistic assumptions regarding local tourism volume -- so everyone built hotels like crazy. Unfortunately, tourism growth fell behind expectations from 2015 onward. The number of tourists from China dropped, but more travelers from Southeast Asia, Japan, and South Korea found their way to Taiwan. The overall figure hasn’t dropped, but has reached a plateau.
     The mayor further noted that daily rental suites currently offered in Taiwan are not quite like Airbnb. On Airbnb, people lease out their spare rooms, while daily rental suites can comprise an entire building. As every traveler knows, occupancy rates in Taipei’s legal hotel industry remain around 70%, with some even as low as 60%. With new competition from daily rental suites, the situation may be quite problematic.
     Ko remarked that there are about 300 historical buildings, monuments, and leisure farms around Taipei that could offer bed and breakfast services. However, currently only 1 recreational farm in Yangmingshan is a B&B license holder in Taipei. Legally operating B&B’s are few and far between, while illegal ones can be found everywhere. We must now decide how to manage this.
     Ko emphasized that for the government, safety and fairness are paramount. Daily rental suites must be safe, and they must compete with existing tourist hotels on even ground. They can be legalized under the principle of safety and fairness. As with everything, recognizing a problem is the first the step to solving it. This also holds true for the issue of daily rental suites.
     The mayor opined that today's symposium should discuss the current situation in Taipei, the activities that are taking place both above and under the table, see whether lessons can be learned or approaches borrowed from the United States and Japan, and discuss how legalization might proceed under the principles of safety and fairness.
     Ko admitted that he hates it when the law isn’t followed, or when the law cannot be implemented in a realistic way. He said that the city government once discussed the issue of daily rental suites; at the time, he thought that since daily rental suites were operated through the Internet, it would be easy to expose them. But the National Communications Commission passed the buck to the Criminal Investigation Bureau, which didn’t know who to pass the buck to next. In the end, no one stepped up to the plate. 
     Ko said that in theory, daily rental suites can be managed and controlled through the Internet, and the issue would be easy to solve. Many people now say that there is no legal basis for action, and no one wants to take action. It’s not a question of whether or not a solution can be found: rather, it’s just that no one wants to stick their neck out. So, in this symposium, all problems are to be put on the table to look into approaches to solving them. Next, regulations can be set for everyone to follow to solve the issue under the principles of safety and fairness.