The Executive Yuan has made attracting more tourists from China, Hong Kong and Macau one of its major economic stimulus measures, with an aim to generate more than NT$73 billion (US$2.44 billion) in tourism revenue.
Besides a plan to issue multiple entry permits for select Chinese tourists, the Executive Yuan is seeking to expand the Free Independent Traveler (FIT) program to allow residents of more Chinese cities to travel to Taiwan.
Government sources said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have reached a consensus on adding five to 10 to the list of cities covered by the FIT program.
The two sides will jointly unveil the names of the cities to be added to the list in the near future, the sources said, adding that the expanded list could take effect as early as the end of this month.
The sources said Taiwanese and Chinese officials met in the middle of last month to discuss relevant issues. A consensus was reached at the meeting on adding up to 10 cities to the FIT list.
The daily ceiling on independent Chinese travelers will also be raised from 2,000 to 3,000, the sources said. The cities likely to be added to the list include Ningbo, Dalian, Kunming, Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Wuxi, Changsha, Zhuhai, Loyang, Harbin, Changchun and Shenyang, they said.
Statistics released by the National Immigration Agency show that more than 30,000 independent Chinese travelers arrived in 2011, when the FIT program was introduced on June 28 that year, with only three cities — Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen — in the program.
The number increased to 191,148, with 10 more Chinese cities added to the list in two stages, on April 28 and Aug. 10 that year.
Government officials said they hope the number of independent Chinese travelers would increase to 540,000 by the end of this year.
“We also look forward to seeing the number of independent tourists from Hong Kong and Macau increase from last year’s 800,000 to 1.1 million this year,” an official said.
The official added that the government would further simplify entry permit applications for Chinese professionals and businesspeople as part of its tourism promotion.
Operators of hotels, bed and breakfast services, restaurants and department stores are likely to welcome the new measures.