TAIPEI, Taiwan – No longer a Communist-repelling outpost, Taiwan’s Kinmen, an islet that lies close to southern China’s coast, has shed another barrier against its former mainland foes.
On Monday, 292 Chinese tourists landed in Kinmen for a one-day excursion of the island.
Unlike most Chinese travelers to Kinmen, the tourists are all non-Fujian citizens who are visiting Xiamen for either sightseeing or business, according to the Kinmen county government.
They are the first Chinese tourists to Kinmen after China announced the previous day that non-Fujian residents who are in Xiamen can apply directly in the Fujian city for a visit to the Taiwan-controlled island for sightseeing.
Previously, only Fujian residents were allowed to travel to Kinmen via the daily Xiamen-Kinmen ferry. A one-way trip lasts around 50 minutes.
The announcement by China came amongst a package of new agreements on tourism between the two sides that included, most prominently, the start before the end of June of the free independent travelers (FIT) program for Chinese to visit Taiwan.
At present, tourists from mainland China are only allowed to visit Taiwan as part of a tour group.
Kinmen county chief Li Wo-shi personally welcomed the arrivals of the 292 Chinese tourists, who were divided into 13 tour groups, at Shuitou Wharf.
He praised China’s allowance for non-Fujian residents to travel to Kinmen as a “major breakthrough” in the Kinmen-Xiamen tourism relationship.
He said last year, Xiamen hosted more than 30 million Chinese tourists from other cities and towns on the mainland.
If 1 percent of them had extended their tour to Kinmen, it would have equaled 300,000 Chinese tourists coming to the island for sightseeing, Li said. That would be a boom for Kinmen tourism.