About 400 Chinese travel agents arrived in the country yesterday to scout for potential tour routes for free independent travelers (FIT) as Taipei moves closer to allowing Chinese to visit individually.
Roget Hsu (許高慶), secretary-general of the Travel Agent Association of ROC, Taiwan, said the group, led by Cross-Straits Tourism Exchange Association chairman Shao Qi-wei (邵棋偉), would participate in a cross-strait tourism seminar at the Grand Hotel tomorrow.
“Nearly all the events and activities arranged this time are related to the FIT policy for Chinese tourists,” Hsu said on Monday.
However, the Tourism Bureau declined to comment when asked if the visit meant independent Chinese travelers would be allowed to visit by April or May, as the bureau plans.
The bureau said it is the Mainland Affairs Council that handles the FIT policy for Chinese travelers, adding that the council would make an official announcement after Taipei and Beijing reach a consensus on when and how the policy would be implemented.
During his visit, Shao will meet Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) and Tourism Bureau Director-General Janice Lai (賴瑟珍). Although no formal talks have been arranged, it is believed that the FIT policy will be one of the items on the agenda.
Meanwhile, the Travel Agent Association will arrange for Chinese travel agents to visit the Taipei Flora Expo and the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Miaoli County, with each receiving an EasyCard to travel around Taipei using public transportation. Agents will later be divided into groups to inspect different tour routes around the country.
Sources at the Tourism Bureau said the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association and the Cross-Strait Tourism Exchange Associationhad held several meetings on the FIT policy for Chinese tourists.
Although the two sides have reached an initial consensus on starting trial operations by focusing on tourists from select Chinese cities, they continue to differ on the guarantee requirement for Chinese travel agencies.
Taiwan said travel agencies in China should pay guarantees and be held responsible whenever a Chinese overstays his or her visit.
Beijing insists Chinese travel agencies should not be asked to pay a guarantee, as the government would carefully screen these tourists’ background before allowing them to travel to Taiwan.