The Tourism Bureau said it has been receiving an increasing number of complaints from Taiwanese upset by the behavior of Chinese tourists — such as tourists displaying the Chinese national flag in public.
To avoid unnecessary conflict, the bureau has asked travel agencies to organize trip orientations for Chinese tourists in advance to explain to them the cultural differences between Taiwan and China, as well as reminding them not to display the Chinese national flag in public in Taiwan.
However, travel agencies have complained that it is not possible for them to monitor everything the visitors do in Taiwan and that problems could occur even after repeated reminders.
The bureau said it requested that travel agencies do this because the Mainland Affairs Council had received complaints in June that a Chinese tourist flew the Chinese national flag on his bicycle while taking part in an event in Kinmen and it is worried that such politically sensitive behavior may trigger conflicts.
The free independent travelers (FIT) program for Chinese tourists began last year, initially allowing only residents from the cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Xiamen to visit Taiwan independently from tour groups, and the initial average daily average number of visitors was only about 150 people.
After 10 more Chinese cities joined the program last month when the second phase was launched, that number has grown to between 500 and 550 a day.
Although FITs are required to apply through travel agencies and to submit itineraries to the National Immigration Agency, most FITs actually travel on their own after entering into the country and the behavior of many of them has upset Taiwanese, officials said, citing as an example Chinese tourists who displayed the Chinese national flag as they posed for a picture at the popular beach resort of Kenting (墾丁).
The bureau said that more than 1.3 million Chinese tourists have been to Taiwan this year, more than 94,000 as FITs.
The bureau said that in the initial period after Chinese tourists were first allowed to visit Taiwan, they had caused disputes by smoking indoors, spitting and carving on rocks at the Yeliu Geological Park in New Taipei City (新北市).
After the Tourism Bureau gave out booklets to Chinese tourists, explaining to them local culture and laws, the situation improved, the bureau said. However, the booklet does not include politically sensitive issues.
Lion Travel Service Co spokesman Andy Yu (游國珍) said FITs only constitute a small percentage of the total number of visitors from China and that most come purely for tourism and would therefore not touch politically sensitive issues.
Group tourists are always accompanied by tour guides, who would stop them doing anything controversial, he said, adding that generally tour guides do not take the initiative to speak about sensitive issues to Chinese tourists.