Tue, Nov 04, 2008 - Page 12 News List

Travel agencies concerned on loss of business to China

By Hsu Min-Jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwanese travel agencies said yesterday that the latest talks between Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) and Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) could boost the tourism industry as China may increase the number of tourists visiting Taiwan.

But local travel agencies were also concerned that the business opportunities lost through the outflow of Taiwanese tourists to China may be greater than the benefits from the inflow of Chinese tourists.

With an increase in the number of flights, traveling to China will become much more convenient and the number of Taiwanese traveling to China is expected to increase, probably at a faster pace than the increase in Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan, the agencies said.

More than 4.3 million Taiwanese travel to China every year, statistics compiled by the SEF showed. Only 300 Chinese tourists per day on average visited Taiwan as of Oct. 27.

Some local travel companies also said they were skeptical about how many business opportunities would be created by inbound Chinese tourists, as even if that number doubled to 600 people per day, or even 1,000 per day next year, the total number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan would barely reach 365,000 people a year.

The Chinese government has only authorized 33 Chinese travel agencies to organize tour groups to Taiwan and there are only 13 cities and provinces whose residents are allowed to visit Taiwan.

The Chinese government should allow people from all cities and provinces to visit Taiwan and the number of travel agencies authorized to organize tours should be increased to at least 100, or maybe even 200, Travel Agent Association (旅行商業同業公會全國聯合會) chairman Yao Ta-kuang (姚大光) said.

Chen Chri-ji (陳墀吉), associate professor at Shih Hsin University’s Department of Tourism, said an increase in numbers of Chinese tourists would inevitably increase the workload of the National Immigration Agency and the Travel Agent Association, which could overwhelm them.

“The government should be alert to the possible increase in the number of Chinese tourists staying on illegally as a result of a simplified admission process,” Chen said.

Chen was also opposed to the regulations that impose a NT$200,000 fine on travel agencies for every Chinese tourist found staying illegally, which he believed was unreasonable and said the fine should be paid by the Chinese tourists themselves.

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