TAIPEI–The number of Chinese tourists applying to visit Taiwan during the Lunar New Year holiday has almost doubled from last year, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) said yesterday.
In the week starting Jan. 11, a total of 55,099 travel applications were received, compared with 31,640 in the same period last year, the NIA said.
The figures indicate an increasing interest in visiting Taiwan during the Lunar New Year, which runs from Jan. 21-29 this year, the agency said.
The longer-than-usual holiday period may be one of the reasons for the surge in applications, since it allows for more flexible travel itineraries, according to Roget Hsu, secretary-general of Taiwan’s Travel Agent Association.
However, the results of the Jan. 14 presidential election, which the travel industry described as “smooth and satisfactory,” could be seen as another contributing factor, Hsu said.
“Prior to the election, our Chinese customers had dropped by half to about 2,000 people per day in January,” Hsu said.
Hsu said the decrease probably reflected Chinese tourists’ uneasiness about traveling to Taiwan during a time of heightened political tensions.
But the Chinese tourist market now looks more promising since President Ma Ying-jeou’s re-election on Jan. 14, as cross-strait relations are expected to remain stable, Hsu indicated.
In addition, the recent individual traveler program for Chinese tourists will give the market a boost, he said.
The program, which was launched last June, allows up to 500 Chinese nationals from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen to visit Taiwan per day, independent of tour groups or tour guides. Although the program got off to a slow start with fewer than 20 Chinese visitors per day in the first two months, it is likely to pick up this year, Hsu said.
His forecast is supported by NIA statistics that showed a spike in the number of Chinese travelers in the second half of 2011.
The number of independent Chinese tourists to Taiwan in October last year was 6,679, and in November 6,729, according to NIA figures.