Some Taiwan-based online travel agencies are not pleased with a new hotel booking Web site that the Tourism Bureau has set up.

The platform was created after domestic hotels complained that foreign booking sites take large amounts of commission. About 1,500 businesses have applied to be listed on the site since it was launched.

However, an anonymous source from the local tourism industry said yesterday that local online travel agencies are already suffering due to “unfair competition” from foreign booking platforms, and now the bureau has created “yet another booking platform to compete with businesses.”

Another anonymous source questioned whether the bureau would be able to maintain the service. Operational, maintenance and marketing expenses would cost the bureau “at least” NT$10 million (US$328,095) per year, the source added.

“Besides, who would handle consumer disputes?” the source said.

If the bureau cannot address these issues, the platform would just become a “policy statement,” the sources added.

Local online travel agencies have been “forgotten” by Taiwan’s tourism industry, said Chang Feng-wen (張奉文), chairman of the Taipei-based TravelKing Internet Agency Co.

Domestic laws and regulations on platforms based overseas are “ambiguous,” he said, adding that “even the Tourism Bureau does not recognize booking services as being within its jurisdiction.”

The bureau allows foreign platforms to charge hotel owners “high amounts of commission of more than 20 percent the room rate.” When hotel revenues drop, the operators ask the government for subsidies, he said, calling it a “vicious cycle.”

The bureau should take responsibility and allow the online travel agencies market to “return to fair competition,” Chang said.

In response, the bureau said the current version of the Company Act (公司法) does not require foreign companies to set up branches in Taiwan.

It said it has previously asked foreign companies to register in the nation, and for them to follow domestic regulations, but whether they comply is up to them.