More independent Chinese tourists are to be allowed to visit Taiwan, rather than requiring them to join tour groups, as part of efforts to boost tourism, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said at a meeting with local business leaders on Friday.
Ma said independent travelers would be welcomed from more Chinese cities — other than Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen, that from where independent travellers are already permitted.
The number of Chinese cities whose residents are allowed to visit Taiwan as individual tourists “will be increased from three to 11 from March” to maintain growth in tourism, Ma said.
Taiwan attracted 6.08 million foreign tourists last year, he said, but the number of tourists from China accounted for only 30 percent of those, he said.
Asked about Ma’s announcement, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Deputy Minister Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) said the matter was still being discussed with Chinese authorities.
The Taipei-based Taiwan Strait Tourism Association and the Beijing-headquartered Cross-Strait Tourism Association have not reached a consensus on Taiwan’s offer to expand the individual traveller program for Chinese tourists, he said.
Travel Agents Association secretary-general Roget Hsu (許高慶) said he expected approval to be given for individual travelers from three to seven additional Chinese cities.
According to local media reports yesterday, the cities on the list include Tianjin, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Jinan and Shenzhen.
Taiwan began the individual travel scheme in June last year, allowing up to 500 Chinese citizens from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen to visit Taiwan individually per day.
Since then, 38,549 Chinese citizens have been granted permits for individual trips to Taiwan as of the end of last year, with 29,187 of them actually completing their tours, MAC statistics showed.