Fri, Jul 24, 2009 - Page 3 News List

PRC in no hurry to allow smaller tour groups

'IMPOSSIBLE' Beijing feels tours with less than four travelers might not be profitable, and opposes letting Chinese travel without a Chinese guide, the Tourism Bureau said

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tourism Bureau Director-General Janice Lai (賴瑟珍) confirmed yesterday that Beijing might not allow Chinese to visit Taiwan as fully independent travelers (FIT) or permit them to form tour groups of less than four people.

Lai made the remarks in a press briefing about her trip to Beijing last week.

Lai met her Chinese counterpart, China National Travel Administration Chairman Shao Qiwei (邵琪偉).

Currently, tour groups from China to Taiwan must include at least five people.

“We have exchanged thoughts with [Chinese tourism authorities] on this issue,” Lai said. “They said their FIT policy only applied to tourists [visiting] Hong Kong and Macau. Those heading to other countries must join packaged group tours, where visitors enter and leave that country as a group according to pre-arranged itineraries.”

Lai said the Chinese government felt operational costs for handling a tour group with only two or three travelers were too high.

Each group must have a tour leader dispatched by a Chinese travel agency, in addition to a tour guide arranged by the Taiwanese travel agency to receive the group and accompany them during their visit.

“We said they could just spare themselves the hassle of having to send a group leader, but they said it was simply impossible to let their people travel on their own,” Lai said.

Meanwhile, Lai said the number of Chinese tourists to Taiwan had topped 373,000 since July last year.

Only eight Chinese tourists were missing as of yesterday after leaving their tour groups, Lai said, adding that both sides considered this an “acceptable” figure.

Lai told reporters that 85 percent of Chinese tourists said they were satisfied with their travel experiences in Taiwan, while 15 percent said they had spent too much time on tour buses, which had affected the quality of the trip.

The bureau will put together different tour packages to give Chinese travel agencies more options, Lai said.

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