Travel sector asks for easing of individual Chinese tourist rules


TAIPEI–Local tourism representatives expressed hope yesterday that restrictions on unaccompanied travelers from China will be further eased to inject some life into a program that has sputtered since beginning in June.

Launched with great expectations, the program allows up to 500 Chinese nationals per day from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen to visit Taiwan without having to join a tour group with a tour guide, but the results have been underwhelming so far. According to National Immigration Agency (NIA) statistics, only 11,259 Chinese tourists without tour groups arrived in Taiwan between June 28 and Oct. 10, which the Travel Agent Association of R.O.C. Taiwan (TAAT) said fell far below industry expectations.

Though the situation improved somewhat during the peak season of Chinese inbound tourism from Oct. 1 and Oct. 10, when China celebrated its National Day holiday, the daily average of 272 Chinese independent tourist arrivals still fell far below the quota. With local media reporting that cross-strait tourism representatives are to start a new round of negotiations this week to further open Taiwan’s borders to Chinese travelers, TAAT Chairman Yao Ta-kuang is eager for restrictions to be lifted to add new vitality to the program.

“We hope that Chinese people from wealthier cities — such as Guangzhou, Tianjin and Hangzhou — can also be included in the package,” said Yao, who also wants the daily tourist quota to be raised to 1,000 by 2012.

Though pushing for an increase in the quota while numbers remain well below the existing cap of 500 people per day, Yao believes there are reasons for optimism that the program will grow.

He noted that daily arrivals have risen from an average of 19 per day in July to 141 per day in September, and that 7,000 people applied for permits last month. The permits can be used for up to a year after they are issued.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) would not confirm that cross-strait officials plan to discuss the issue this week but it said the government has been re-examining the effectiveness of the program.

“Premier Wu Den-yih directed that the program was to be reviewed three months after it took effect, and the MAC and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications are working on it,” said MAC Deputy Minister Liu Te-shun.