China-Japan island row may boost Taiwan tourism
TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan's tourism industry may gain a slight boost from China's week-long national holiday in October, particularly in light of the territorial dispute between Japan and China over the Diaoyutai Islands, travel agents said Sunday, but tourism officials were less optimistic.
Tourism between Japan and China has been affected by the row that has spurred fierce anti-Japanese protests in China by thousands of demonstrators, said Chen Chiung-hua, a division deputy director of the Tourism Bureau.
But Chinese tourists who cancel their trips to Japan may not necessarily shift to Taiwan because it takes China seven to 10 days to process their travel documents for visits to Taiwan, he said.
In addition, seats on flights across the Taiwan Strait are usually limited during the holiday period because of the many China-based Taiwanese businesspeople trying to return home, Chen said.
However, Chipo Lee, vice general manager of Comfort Travel Service in Taipei, said the agency has been receiving more inquiries recently from Chinese tourists about travel to Taiwan.
He estimated that the number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan during China's "golden week" holiday period Sept. 30 to Oct. 7 will increase by about 20 percent.
Roget Hsu, secretary-general of Taiwan's Travel Agents Association, said most of the group tours from China to Japan have been canceled recently and it is highly likely that they will come to Taiwan instead.
A senior tour guide at Lion Travel argued, however, that Taiwan and Japan are two different markets and Chinese tourists may not necessarily divert to Taiwan because of anti-Japanese sentiment caused by the Diaoyutai dispute.
The number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan usually spikes during China's national day holiday period, according Taiwan's National Immigration Agency data.
In August, 555 Chinese applied to visit Taiwan as independent tourists, while 700 have applied so far to visit in early October, the data shows.
China Airlines and EVA Airways said their flights between Taiwan and Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing are almost fully booked for the eight-day period, which includes mid-Autumn Festival on Sept. 30 and China's national day holiday Oct. 1-7.
The two Taiwanese air carriers however said they would not necessarily attribute the packed bookings to the effects of the Diaoyutai dispute.
Located some 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, the Diaoyutai Islands have been under Japanese administration since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.
The long-simmering territorial dispute escalated to a new level on Sept. 11 when the Japanese government bought three of the uninhabited islets from their private owner in an attempt to reinforce its sovereignty claim, a move that spurred strong protests in Taiwan and China.