China and Taiwan to exchange tourist offices in May


TAIPEI – China and Taiwan are to open tourist offices on each other’s territory for the first time in 60 years amid fast warming relations between the two former bitter rivals, officials said on Sunday.

The move comes as government statistics showed Taiwan has become more popular among Chinese tourists than among the Japanese, for long the island’s top visitors, in the first three months to March. The Taiwan Strait Tourism Association, authorised by the island’s top government tourism body, is scheduled to open an office in Beijing on May 4, the state Central News Agency said.

Meanwhile Shao Qiwei, the head of the China National Tourism Administration and the Cross-Strait Tourism Association (CSTA), will launch a Taipei office on May 7. They will be the first semi-official representative offices to be set up by the two sides since their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

Wen Liu, the spokesman for Taiwan’s tourism association, said preparations for the inauguration of the Beijing office were nearly complete. ‘All we need is the final confirmation,’ he told AFP. ‘The office is expected to provide Chinese tourists with more detailed information on tours in Taiwan.’

Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, though the island has governed itself since 1949. Ties between the two sides have improved markedly since President Ma Ying Jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in 2008, pledging to boost trade links and allowing in more Chinese tourists.

Chinese tourists made 344,000 visits to Taiwan in the first three months to March, nearly double the figure for the same period last year, compared with around 270,000 visits by Japanese tourists, according to official figures. Chinese tourists made around 970,000 visits to Taiwan last year, trailing closely behind 1,006,000 visits by Japanese tourists.