Taiwan: China’s “passive cooperation” killing cross-strait cruise tourism


Taiwan’s cross-strait cruise tour market is fading even before it can bloom, due to China’s “passive cooperation.”

The heyday of cruise tours to Taiwan like the ones that brought 12,000 Chinese Amway employees in nine groups last year is now history.

Foreign cruise operators have had difficulty obtaining permits from China to sail across the strait to Taiwan, which has resulted in a 70 percent drop in cross-strait luxury cruises this year.

Following are excerpts of reports in the China Times on the issue:

Encouraged by rosy prospects of the cross-Taiwan Strait cruise tourism market after Taiwan and China opened direct air and shipping links at the end of 2008, foreign cruise operators have increased investment in this route and the number of applications for such tours.

Nevertheless, their applications seemed to have fallen into a hole, with most of them technically shelved by the Chinese authorities.

Daunted by uncertainties, which undermine sales, foreign cruise operators have cancelled their cross-Taiwan Strait tours.

Hsieh Yung-peng, vice president of the Taipei-based Edison Travel Service, said that given the short supply of airline seats across the strait, cruise ships are the answer to the increasing demand for tourism travel across the Taiwan Strait.

“Taiwan’s tourism sector should prepare for marginalization if foreign cruises do not resume,” Hsieh warned.

Ironically, according to the China Communication and Transportation Association, the cruise travel markets in the greater China area are highly active, and the China-Taiwan-Hong Kong area is poised to become the sixth busiest cruise market in the world.

Chang Lee Cheng-chin, chairwoman of Golden Formosa Travel, said one solution would be for Taiwan to relax its visa restrictions on Chinese cruise ship passengers to offer them quick, temporary entry permits.

Meanwhile, local marine transportation companies are worried that Taiwan’s seaports are quickly losing their competitiveness in the face of China’s rapid development of its cruise industry. China has been building dedicated cruise ship ports and new cruise ships, and simplifying its boarding and disembarkation procedures.

Chi Wen-chung, director of the Department of Navigation and Aviation under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, said Taiwan will bring up the issue during the shipping talks in August between Taiwan and China — via their respective intermediary groups.