Sat, Aug 03, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Eased restrictions are of little benefit, travel agencies say

Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwanese travel agencies are likely to see only limited benefits from the government’s recent easing of restrictions on Chinese tourists, tourism operators said.

On Thursday, Taiwan began issuing one-year multiple-entry visas to Chinese tourists traveling outside of a tour group, a move that the Tourism Bureau hopes will increase the number of visitors from across the Taiwan Strait.

Under the new rules, Chinese visitors are eligible for the year-long visas if they have made two or more trips to Taiwan independently over the past year or if they hold a multiple-exit travel permit to Taiwan issued by Chinese authorities.

Travel Agent Association of Taiwan secretary-general Roget Hsu (許高慶) agreed that simplified paperwork for Chinese nationals could stimulate more travel to Taiwan, but he added that such a policy could affect the business revenues of local travel agencies because they would no longer be needed for certain applications.

Other tourism operators, who declined to give their names, said they remain worried by rules that make travel agencies responsible for Chinese visitors who illegally overstay their trips.

When an agency processes entry papers for a Chinese visitor, a service that costs about NT$2,000, the agency is liable for a fine of up to NT$100,000 if that traveler overstays. Adjusting the rules governing liability and related issues would do more to protect local businesses, they said.

According to National Immigration Agency data, 30,281 Chinese nationals traveling outside of tour groups visited in 2011, the first year Taiwan began allowing such visits. Last year, Taiwan welcomed 191,148 independent tourists from China and the figure for this year was 212,834 as of July 5.

About 0.003 percent of Chinese nationals have overstayed and fled, the agency said, but that number remains lower than in neighboring countries such as Japan.

The Tourism Bureau expects the one-year multiple-entry visas to boost the number of non-group visitors from China to 500,000 by the end of the year.

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