Sun, Oct 28, 2018 - Page 1 News List

China suspends group tours to Taichung: source

By Hsiao Yu-hsin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A message sent on Friday saying that the China National Tourism Administration will temporarily restrict or ban Chinese tour groups from visiting Taichung, notably the Fengchia Night Market, is shown on a mobile phone screenshot.

Photo courtesy of a tour operator

The China National Tourism Administration is to suspend group tours to Taichung from Nov. 5 to April next year, Taiwanese tourist agencies said, citing Chinese business contacts.

Although there was no official announcement from the Chinese government, the ban is likely an attempt to influence the nine-in-one elections on Nov. 24 and to boycott the Taichung World Flora Expo that is to open on Saturday, a tourism agency source said on condition of anonymity.

The suspension would affect tours that offer dining or overnight stays in Taichung, the source said, adding that groups were explicitly forbidden from visiting the Fengchia Night Market (逢甲夜市).

The reports came from intermediaries between Chinese tour groups and Taiwanese travel agencies, the source said, adding that other agencies have also been informed by their contacts.

As the information was not from Chinese authorities, Taiwanese businesses cannot ask them for confirmation, the source said.

However, even if the suspension has been ordered, the effects on tourism are likely to be minimal, as most eight-day tours from China do not stay overnight in Taichung unless they plan to visit Sun Moon Lake (日月潭), the source said, adding that the expo is aimed at backpackers and domestic tourists, who would not be affected by the Chinese policy.

Taipei-based Cheng An Travel Services Co Ltd chairwoman Wu Pi-lian (吳碧蓮) said that while several firms have heard reports of a suspension, not all are convinced that they are accurate.

“China’s border provinces sometimes jump the gun in trying to guess what the top brass want and it is not likely that cosmopolitan cities like Shanghai would impose such a ban,” Wu said.

“However, [Chinese officials] could issue fewer travel permits,” she said.

The Tourism Bureau said the reports of a suspension cannot be verified — much like previous rumors that China would halve the number of group tours to Taiwan — but this does little to stop rumors from spreading in election season.

In the past, Chinese authorities would not comment on such reports and with the current cross-strait diplomatic tensions, they would not respond to any inquiry, the bureau said.

As of last month, Chinese visitor numbers to Taiwan had not changed significantly, with a drop in group tours offset by an increase in independent travelers, the bureau said, citing government data.

“The bureau welcomes Chinese tourists,” it said, adding that even if there was a suspension of tours to Taichung, Chinese could still visit as independent travelers.

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