The number of Chinese tourists applying to visit Taiwan during the Lunar New Year holiday has almost doubled from last year, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) said yesterday.
In the week starting Jan. 11, a total of 55,099 travel applications were received, compared with 31,640 in the same period last year, the agency said.
The figures indicate an increasing interest in visiting Taiwan during the Lunar New Year holiday, which runs from today to Jan. 29, the agency said.
The longer-than-usual holiday period may be one of the reasons for the surge in applications, since it allows for more flexible travel itineraries, Travel Agents Association secretary-general Roget Hsu (許高慶) said.
The results of last Saturday’s presidential election, which the travel industry described as “smooth and satisfactory,” could also be seen as a contributing factor, Hsu said.
“Prior to the election, our Chinese customers had dropped by half to about 2,000 people per day in January,” Hsu said.
Hsu said the decrease probably reflected Chinese tourists’ uneasiness about traveling to Taiwan during a time of heightened political tensions.
However, the Chinese tourist market now looks more promising since President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election on Jan. 14, because cross-strait relations are expected to remain stable, Hsu said.
The recent free independent traveler (FIT) program for Chinese tourists will give the market a boost, he added.
The program, which was launched in June last year, allows up to 500 Chinese nationals from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen to visit Taiwan per day, independent of tour groups or tour guides.
Although the program got off to a slow start with fewer than 20 independent visitors per day in the first two months, it is likely to pick up this year, Hsu said.
His forecast is supported by NIA statistics that showed a spike in the number of independent travelers in the second half of last year.
The number of independent Chinese visitors to Taiwan reached 6,679 in October and 6,729 in November, agency data showed.