Mon, Sep 24, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Dispute could lift tourism: agents

FLIGHT DETAILS:Two major airlines have said that flights between China and Taiwan during the Chinese holiday period early next month are fully booked

Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwan’s tourism industry might get a slight boost from China’s week-long national holiday next month, particularly in light of the territorial dispute between Japan and China over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), travel agents said yesterday. However, tourism officials were less optimistic.

Tourism between Japan and China has been affected by the row that has spurred fierce anti-Japanese protests in China by thousands of demonstrators, said Chen Chiung-hua (陳瓊華), a division deputy director of the Tourism Bureau.

However, Chinese tourists who cancel their trips to Japan may not necessarily shift to Taiwan because it takes China seven to 10 days to process travel documents for visits to Taiwan, he said.

In addition, the number of seats on flights across the Taiwan Strait are usually limited during the holiday period because of the many China-based Taiwanese businesspeople returning to Taiwan, Chen said.

However, Chipo Lee (李季柏), vice general manager of Comfort Travel Service in Taipei, said the agency has been receiving more inquiries recently from Chinese tourists about travel to Taiwan. He estimated that the number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan during China’s “golden week” holiday period from Sunday to Oct. 7 could increase by about 20 percent.

Travel Agents Association secretary-general Roget Hsu (許高慶) said most of the group tours from China to Japan have been canceled recently and it is highly likely that travelers will come to Taiwan instead.

However, a senior tour guide at Lion Travel said that Taiwan and Japan are two different markets and Chinese tourists may not necessarily divert to Taiwan because of anti-Japanese sentiment caused by the Diaoyutai dispute.

The number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan usually spikes during China’s national day holiday period, according data compiled by the National Immigration Agency.

Last month, 555 Chinese applied to visit Taiwan as independent tourists, while 700 have applied so far to visit early next month, data showed.

China Airlines and EVA Airways said their flights between Taiwan and Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing are almost fully booked for the eight-day holiday period, which includes Mid-Autumn Festival on Sunday and China’s national day holiday from Oct. 1 through to Oct. 7.

However, the two Taiwanese air carriers said they would not necessarily attribute the bookings to the effects of the Diaoyutai dispute.

Located about 120 nautical miles (222km) northeast of Taiwan, the Diaoyutai Islands have been under Japanese administration since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

The long-simmering territorial dispute escalated to a new level on Sept. 11 when the Japanese government bought three of the uninhabited islets from their private owner in an attempt to reinforce its sovereignty claim, a move that spurred strong protests in Taiwan and China.

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