Taiwan eyes more solo mainland Chinese tourists

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou announced Feb. 3 that to boost the country’s tourism Taiwan will open its doors to individual travelers from more mainland Chinese cities.

“Starting in March, the program allowing individual mainland Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan will be expanded to a total of 11 cities,” Ma said while attending Lunar New Year celebrations for industrial and business groups in Taipei

This new plan would help Taiwan’s tourism industry continue to grow, the president said, adding that mainland Chinese tourists accounted for 30 percent of the 6.08 million people visiting Taiwan last year.

Launched in June 2011, the travel arrangement currently allows up to 500 individual mainland Chinese from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen to visit Taiwan per day.

Liu Te-shun, deputy minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, said later in the day that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have reached a consensus on the planned expansion, which is expected to be finalized this month by the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association and its mainland Chinese counterpart the Cross-Strait Tourism Exchange Association.

The TSTA and CSTEA, semiofficial bodies governing cross-strait tourism affairs, are scheduled to meet Feb. 7 to 8 in Hong Kong to confirm which eight cities are to be added to the individual travel program.

Candidate are believed to include such major mainland Chinese municipalities as Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Wuhan and Xi-an.

The daily cap on solo mainland Chinese tourists is expected to remain at 500.

Ma noted that Taiwan is a popular destination not only for tourists from mainland China, but also from around the world, as the country is known for its beautiful scenery, fine food and hospitable people.

Given its strong tourism potential, the president said, he was confident that Taiwan can reach the goal of attracting 10 million visitors annually by 2016.

Rachel Chan