Mon, Aug 28, 2006 - Page 2 News List

New tourism association gets million dollar start

HELPING HANDS Both the government and private travel associations contributed to the funding of a new agency establsihed to deal with cross-strait travel issues

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taiwan Strait Tourism and Travel Association, the newly established liaison agency to handle cross-strait tourism issues, held a meeting yesterday at which both government and private travel service representatives jointly donated NT$1 million (US$31,250) to fund the initial operations of the organization.

Hsu Wen-sheng (許文聖), director-general of the Tourism Bureau at the Ministry of Transportation and Communication, will be the founding chairman of the association. The bureau's deputy director-general Lai Se-jen (賴瑟珍) will be the association's secretary-general.

The government donated NT$500,000, while each of five private travel associations participating in the meeting donated NT$100,000.

The association has yet to choose a date to officially start operating from its office located in the same building as the Tourism Bureau on Chunghshan E. Road in Taipei.

The Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council also issued a statement yesterday, saying that it has come to their attention that Taiwan has established a new private tourism association. The statement reiterated that allowing Chinese residents to travel to Taiwan as early as possible has always been its official policy, and was the consensus reached between the Chinese government and former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) last year.

"We hope the administration in Taiwan will take note of public opinion and allow the association to function soon," the statement said.

Hsu said in an interview on Friday with the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister paper) that the association and China's Cross-Strait Tourism Association will possibly begin negotiations starting next month.

The time and location of any negotiations would be decided by the Mainland Affairs Council after negotiations with the Chinese government. Hsu emphasized that the negotiations between the two associations will focus on practical matters of tourism. Lai, on the other hand, will be the appointed representative from Taiwan to negotiate with China.

The negotiations are expected to be completed by the end of the year, he said, adding that the Chinese government is supposed to list Taiwan as one of the countries or regions to which Chinese citizens are permitted to travel afterwards.

By then, Taiwan will be able to accept 1,000 tourists from China every day.

One major concern is whether Chinese tourists could overstay their visas. Hsu noted that so far China's Hubei and Fujian provinces have been found to have a higher percentage of "runaway" tourists and people from these regions are now barred from entering Taiwan.

The two associations will have to work out several issues, including identification, inspection and extradition of overstaying tourists.

The association will have nine to 11 board trustees. Currently, only nine have been chosen, four from the government and five from the private sector.

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