TAIPEI/XIAMEN – Taiwan’s tourism industry warmly responded to the announcement of a policy Sunday that will allow mainland tourists to visit the island as individuals.
The Chinese mainland and Taiwan will launch the pilot travel program starting June 28, Wang Yi, director of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said during a conference held at the weeklong Strait Forum, which opened in the mainland’s coastal city of Xiamen Saturday.
Wang said the first phase of the program will apply to residents of the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen, located in east China’s Fujian Province facing Taiwan across the Taiwan Strait.
The policy was welcomed by travel companies on the island.
Roget K.C. Hsu, general secretary of the Travel Agent Association of Taiwan, said that if 500 mainland travelers visit Taiwan every day, and each of them spends 30,000 New Taiwan dollars (about 1,056 U.S. dollars) during their stay, they are likely to bring Taiwan at least 5.5 billion New Taiwan dollars in annual revenues.
Analysts in Taiwan said the policy will bring more high-end tourists and young people who are willing to spend more money. The policy will benefit tourism-related businesses such as hotels, department stores, restaurants and tourist sites, the analysts said.
Ke Ten-lu runs a small ten-room hotel in central Taiwan’s Changhua County. Most of his clients are individual travelers.
“My hotel is too small to accommodate tourists who are part of tour groups, so I have received very few mainland clients,” he said.
Ke said individual travelers typically pay more attention to the quality of their tours and the unique flavor of local communities, which his hotel is able to provide.
“My hotel is ready to receive mainland clients, but I think mainland people are not very familiar with small hotels in Taiwan. I hope the authorities will help promote us in the mainland so that more people will come,” he said.
Taxi driver Chao Chun-ming from the city of Taipei was also happy about the new policy.
“If mainland tourists travel in tour groups, travel agencies arrange transportation for them ahead of time. Very few of them take taxis,” Chao said.
“Individual travelers are different. My business will definitely increase (as a result of the new policy),” Chao said.
However, travel agencies are more apprehensive about the new policy.
“Some of our travel agencies have yet to figure out where their profits will come from. They will continue to observe the implementation of the new policy,” said Hsu Chin-jui, president of the Taiwan-based Chinese Travel Association and vice president of Hunters Tours.
However, other travel agencies have already started working on new services that will cater to individual travelers, included customized travel packages, Hsu said.
Mainland tourists have been allowed to travel to Taiwan since a travel ban was lifted in July 2008, but are only permitted to travel in groups.
The daily number of mainland tourists traveling to Taiwan has since increased from 300 people in 2008 to 3,200 last year.
The number of Chinese mainland tourists traveling to Taiwan reached 2.34 million as of the end of May, said Shao Qiwei, head of the China National Tourism Administration, at the 3rd Strait Forum Sunday.