China tourists drop $1.3 mln in Taiwan


TAIPEI – Chinese tourists who just finished a historic trip to Taiwan, which normally bans them for security reasons, spent about T$40 million ($1.3 million), a perk for the island’s sagging economy, local media said on Saturday.

Some of the 762 China visitors who came to Taiwan for eight days on the first direct weekend charter flights from July 4 bought made-in-Taiwan souvenirs, LV handbags and other high-end merchandise at expensive malls, such as SOGO and Taipei 101, in the island’s capital, the United Daily News reported.

“The T$40 million spent by mainland China tourists over the past eight days is still a conservative estimate,” the paper said.

“Yesterday no small number of tourists were saying ‘we spent more than you imagine.'”

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists (KMT) fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.

In a sign of detente, the two sides agreed last month to launch direct Friday-through-Monday charter flights in part to let increasingly wealthy China tourists visit Taiwan, where the economy faces inflation, wage stagnation and employment issues.

Direct flights were previously banned, save for on occasional holidays, and Chinese were seldom allowed to visit Taiwan, due to security concerns.