China’s ban on individual travel to Taiwan could see visitors fall for the first time since the devastating SARS outbreak of 2003.
The number of Chinese visiting Taiwan plunged 46 percent last month, Tourism Bureau data showed.
China banned individuals from traveling to Taiwan in July, although tourists are still allowed to visit in groups.
While the total number of international visitors has been on track for a new record high, rising more than 10 percent so far this year, the Chinese embargo threatens to interrupt 15 straight years of annual increases in overseas arrivals.
In 2003, tourists stayed away from Taiwan and Hong Kong after outbreaks of SARS.
China, which is the largest single source of tourists for Taiwan, has sought to isolate the nation ahead of the Jan. 11 presidential and legislative elections that are to determine whether President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the Democratic Progressive Party can win a second term.
China provided little justification for its ban on individual travel, citing only “the state of cross-strait relations” in a statement.
“Arbitrary curbs on travel hurt the prospects for mutual understanding between people in Taiwan and China,” Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies assistant professor Ian Rowen said via e-mail. “However, economic impacts on Taiwan are limited due to the economy’s low overall reliance on tourism and the government’s active role in courting visitors from less capricious emerging markets.”
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