Taiwan will open its doors tomorrow to independent Chinese travelers from six more Chinese cities, but it will take time for tourist numbers from those regions to build up, the National Immigration Agency said.
Residents from the cities of Tianjin, Chongqing, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chengdu will now be allowed to visit Taiwan for pleasure without having to be part of a tour group.
Although the initial number of applications from the six cities is low, the agency said it expects it to grow after Chinese travelers become familiar with the program, which was launched last June and is currently limited to residents of Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen.
Under the expanded program, independent travelers allowed into Taiwan will also increase from 500 to 1,000 per day, and, starting later this year, it will be further extended to allow visitors from Jinan, Xian, Fuzhou and Shenzhen.
Despite expecting low numbers of visitors in the coming weeks, the Tourism Bureau expressed optimism about volume increasing in the long term, based on the growth in visits by independent travelers seen since last June.
According to bureau statistics, only about 29,000 independent Chinese travelers visited Taiwan during the second half of last year, but nearly 27,000 had visited Taiwan during the first three months of this year.
The tourism industry said the program is expected to boost cross-strait travel this year, expecting it to generate an additional 60,000 to 70,000 Chinese visitors each year.
Though that may be only a small fraction of the 1.78 million Chinese visitor arrivals recorded last year, Taiwan’s Travel Agent Association said the program could generate NT$4 billion (US$135.6 million) in revenue per year.
“If we can continue on the current path of tourism exchanges with China, the program is likely to be fully opened to Chinese nationals within two years,” association secretary-general Roget Hsu (許高慶) said.