An increasing number of Chinese travel agencies are setting up units specifically to handle tours to Taiwan, as the forecasts for Chinese tourist arrivals this year rise to 1.2 million.
These units are being seen not only in coastal areas of China, but also in its hinterlands, which only recently obtained approval by authorities for residents to visit Taiwan.
Clients at these units can buy tours to Taiwan, as well as Taiwanese souvenirs and specialties.
One tour agency in Gangsu Province is planning to set up four units dedicated to tours of Taiwan and will offer items such as special photo albums for trips.
China Comfort Travel’s (中國康輝旅行社集團) units will be located on the main streets of Gangsu’s capital Lanzhou, the company’s general manager, Gung Yufei (龔羽飛), said.
Gung said many people in the western China province are eager to visit Taiwan, especially now that the province has obtained permission for such trips.
About 200 residents of the province competed for a chance to be in the first tour group, although the tour was only open to 67 people and cost 8,800 yuan (US$1,300), which is quite a lot of money in China, she said.
Her comments were borne out by Yang Jui-tsung (楊瑞宗), chief of the Beijing Office of the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association, who said that many Chinese travel agencies have suggested that he visit China’s hinterlands more frequently to see how enthusiastic the people are to visit Taiwan.
With travel becoming more popular with Chinese, many countries are vying for a share of the tourism market. Whether or not Taiwan can hold its own against these competitors depends largely on the quality of the tours it can provide, industry stakeholders have said.
Gung said tours of Taiwan should be expanded to cater to older visitors.
At present, the tours consist mainly of trips to scenic areas, which is not enough for Chinese travelers in their 50s and 60s who are more interested in Taiwan’s culture, she said.
This type of tourist would prefer to visit cultural attractions, such as the home of the late writer Shan Mo and other well-known Taiwanese, she said.
Among the Chinese provinces, Jiangsu has the highest percentage of tourists that have visited Taiwan, statistics from the Tourism Bureau show. Jiangsu Province was among the first provinces to give permission for its residents to visit Taiwan.
Jiangsu also offers the best quality tours to Taiwan, the bureau said.
Liu Xuxu, a Jiangsu tourism official, said this can be ascribed to the organized and disciplined approach of travel agencies in the province.
Travel agencies in Jiangsu have set up a fund, to which they each contributed 100,000 yuan, to regulate prices and lay down standards for tours, he said.
For example, Liu said, they have agreed not to offer backpacking tours, not to book hotels below the four-star rating, have set a minimum price per person for each meal and have set up training programs for tour guides.
Providing quality tours would encourage repeat visits, Liu said.
Many people in Jiangsu have already visited Taiwan two or three times in the last two years, since approval was first given for such trips, he added.
Another strategy to attract repeat visitors is to offer in-depth tours of Taiwan, he said.
With an eye on this clientele, Jiangsu Shuntian Overseas Traveling Corp (江蘇順天旅遊) will open a Taiwan unit later this month to sell tours and products, and to offer travel advice to people who want to know more about Taiwan.
By providing detailed and updated travel information, the company said it would be able to attract more business.
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