TAIPEI – About 13,400 Chinese mainland tourists flocked to Taiwan last week, spending 850 million New Taiwan dollars (25.5 million U.S. dollars) in their first Spring Festival holiday on the island.
Each visitor spent a daily average of about 9,000 NTD from Jan.26, the first day of the Spring Festival or lunar New Year, to Feb. 1, said Chang Shi-Chung, of the Taiwan tourism authority, Monday.
About 60 percent of mainland tourists opted for a seven-night schedule, and the arrivals peaked on Jan. 26 when more than 3,000 arrived, he said.
Taiwan’s Sun-Moon Lake drew the most mainland visitors, attracting 12,647, followed by Ali Mountain at 10,690.
Warming mainland-Taiwan relations and key policy changes in the past year have boosted the cross-Straits tourism business.
At an historic meeting between the mainland’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) in June last year, Taiwan agreed to open to mainland tourists in July. They can stay in Taiwan for up to 15days.
At the meeting, the mainland agreed to allow residents from 13 provinces and municipalities to tour Taiwan. On Jan. 20, it extended the arrangement to another 12 provinces.
The two sides also worked to improve air services.
Before last July, charter flights were only available during four major traditional Chinese festivals and flights had to cross the Taiwan Straits by way of Hong Kong airspace.
The two sides added weekend charter flights in July and daily services in December.
Also in December, flights were allowed to directly cross the Taiwan Straits for the first time since 1949.
A direct flight from Taipei to Shanghai is only about 80 minutes, down from 2 hours and 42 minutes for the Hong Kong route.
Chang said the first major mainland Spring Festival season had been satisfactory for both visitors and local tourism operators, although it left room for improvement in traffic and crowd management.
He expected numbers of mainland tourists to increase steadily.