Fri, Jan 23, 2015 - Page 14 News List

M503 casts cloud over transit talks

By Amy Su  /  Staff reporter

The issue of allowing Chinese tourists to transit in Taiwan on their way to other nations is one of the topics for discussion at a cross-strait meeting next month in Kinmen, but Beijing’s recent announcement to open a new flight route, M503, which is to hug the median line of the Taiwan Strait, has cast a cloud over the transit issue.

However, Taiwan Tourist Hotel Association (觀光旅館公會) president Lai Cheng-i (賴正鎰), who is also the chairman of land developer Shining Group (鄉林集團) and operator of luxury hotel The Lalu (涵碧樓), is optimistic about the issue.

“Significant progress on the transit issue might be realized by the middle of this year at the soonest,” Lai said on Wednesday, citing sources close to the issue, without elaborating on his optimism.

Any relaxation in transit rules is expected to boost passenger flow at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to 50 million annually, from the current 31.2 million, and push forward the development of the Taoyuan Aerotropolis (桃園航空城) project, he said.

However, EVA Airways Corp (EVA, 長榮航空) chairman Chang Kuo-wei (張國煒) is pessimistic over whether Taiwan could become a major transit center for Chinese tourists in the immediate future.

“The current atmosphere of cross-strait talks does not seem that good to me,” Chang told a media briefing last week.

Taiwanese airlines have long urged the government to accelerate negotiations with Beijing to make Taiwan a transit center for Chinese tourists, which might boost the Taoyuan airport’s passenger traffic and therefore contribute to local carriers’ business.

However, as the cross-strait services trade agreement is still being stalled in the legislature, Chang said he did not expect negotiations over the transit issue to make any progress this year.

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