At least 3 mainland cities to be added to individual travel list

The China Post news staff

Chinese people from at least three more cities in China are likely to be allowed to visit Taiwan as individuals tourists starting early March, according to Executive Yuan officials. Currently, only Chinese tourists from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen are allowed to travel individually to Taiwan, but those from Nanjing, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Chengdu are likely to also visit on their own in March at the earliest, the officials said. Janice Lai, director-general of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, said earlier that the second wave of the individual traveler program is expected to be launched in the first half this year, to allow more Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan without needing to join a tour group.

Lai, who just returned from a trip to Nanjing to promote Taiwan’s lantern festival activities, said the Taipei-based Taiwan Strait Tourism Association (TSTA) and the Beijing-based Cross-Strait Tourism Association (CSTA) reached consensus recently on increasing the number of Chinese cities to be covered in the travel program, but that further negotiations details of the scheme are required.

In a bid to seek “equality among regions,” it will not just be Chinese cities in coastal regions that will be considered as candidates for the enhanced individual visitor program, Lai said. The scheme, inaugurated in June 2011, allows up to 500 Chinese nationals from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen to visit Taiwan per day.

Although the initial results of the program were not satisfactory, with fewer than 20 individual Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan per day in the first two months, the number jumped significantly in the latter half of 2011.

As of Dec. 31, 2011, around 30,000 Chinese people had applied for permits to enter Taiwan under the program, according to statistics compiled by the Tourism Bureau.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan is likely to surge in light of the more stable cross-strait relations expected as a result of President Ma Ying-jeou’s re-election, according the bureau’s Lai. In related news, representatives of transportation-related institutions of both Taiwan and China will meet in the first half this year to discuss augmented cross-Taiwan Strait exchanges in the fields of aviation and maritime transportation.

The meeting on aviation will be held in May or June, and will be attended by representatives of Taipei Airlines Association and the Cross-Strait Air Exchange Association, under the China Air Transport Association. The Taiwan side wants to further increase the number of direct cross-strait flights, which stands at 558 a week now, to meet the growing need of increased cross-strait exchanges and the rising number of mainland Chinese travelers. The target will focus on increased flights for central and western Chinese cities, such as Chongqing, Chengdu, Wuhan, and Xian. Taiwan will also propose to allow Chinese travelers to fly to Europe, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand via transit in Taichung.

The meeting on maritime transportation will be attended by representatives from the Taiwan Strait Maritime Transportation Association and Cross-Strait Maritime Exchange Association. It is expected to take place in May and June, at the latest, and will address such issues as arrangement of transportation capacities and cross-strait trunk-line passenger liners.