Tourists to Taiwan vanish into thin air


Some mainland tourists visiting Taiwan have come up with a new island adventure – going AWOL.

And the travel agencies that could be held responsible are looking for ways to stop their clients from going missing after the disappearance of 10 people in recent months.

Last month, Wu Zhenlian, who joined a Taiwan tour from Sichuan, went missing on August 10. Shortly after, on August 20, Zhang Kunshan from Sichuan disappeared.

Before that, Wang Wangdi, who joined a Taiwan-bound tour group arranged by the Zhuhai-based Gongbei branch of China Travel Service, left her group in Taiwan on July 29 and has been out of contact since.

The Zhuhai travel agency, the Taiwan local travel agency, and Taiwan police have searched for Wang without success.

The Cross-Straits Tourism Exchange Association has criticized the travel agencies involved in the cases.

According to the association’s web site, mainland tourists have been secretly leaving their tour groups and staying in Taiwan.

At least 10 mainland tourists have gone missing in Taiwan since June, it said. If found, they will be deported to the mainland, but not charged.

Travel agencies in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and Fujian province were banned from operating tours to Taiwan for one month as a result of disappearances on June 27 and August 5.

Agencies, looking for ways to keep people from going AWOL, usually ask for a large deposit that will be refunded after the tour. Agents conduct background checks on clients, especially single ones, and they also hold their clients’ personal documents during the tour.

Fu Jingxian, an official with the Guangdong tourism administration, said disappearances are hard to prevent and they also happen in overseas destinations such as the United States and Australia.

The tourists involved in such cases receive their passports and visas legally and should bear the responsibility for leaving the tour groups, he said.

About 200,000 tourists have joined Taiwan-bound tour groups in Guangdong since the market was opened last year, he said.

Travel agencies that fail to report the disappearance of clients in a timely manner receive warnings or have their right to run overseas tours suspended.