The Tourism Bureau said it is planning to raise the daily ceiling for Chinese arrivals under the Free Independent Traveler (FIT) program from 2,000 to 3,000 early next year to offset the adverse impact of China’s new travel law.
The number of Chinese tourists arriving as part of tour groups has declined by about 35 percent since Oct. 1, when China put a stricter travel law into force that bans travel agencies from arranging shopping trips for tour groups.
According to the bureau’s data, the number of tourist arrivals reached 5.8 million in the first nine months of this year, up 8.91 percent. China was the source of the largest number of tourists, accounting for 37 percent of the total. However, the number of Chinese tourist arrivals has dropped by about 35 percent so far this month.
Bureau officials said whether tourist arrivals will break the 8 million mark this year will hinge on the number of Chinese tourist arrivals in the fourth quarter. The bureau has stepped up promotional efforts. One of the measures is pushing the government to increase manpower at the National Immigration Agency (NIA) to speed up screening of Chinese travelers’ entry applications.
Minister Without Portfolio Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興) hosted a cross-agency meeting recently to discuss the feasibility of that proposal. If necessary, the government’s second reserve fund may be used to finance the NIA staff expansion plan.
Meanwhile, the bureau will raise the daily limit of independent Chinese tourist arrivals to 3,000.
As China’s new travel law has no impact on the FIT program and can evenly benefit a variety of businesses in the travel service sector, the bureau said it would focus on promoting the FIT program. If all goes well, the increased entry ceiling for independent Chinese travelers will be implemented before Lunar New Year’s Day, which falls on Jan. 31 next year.
Meanwhile, civil aviation officials on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have agreed to increase the number of cross-strait flights to 670 per week from 616. Shanghai remains the hottest flight destination, with the weekly number rising to 54.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration has completed allocation of increased flights to domestic airlines operating cross-strait flight services. Major local carriers are expected to launch additional flights before the Lunar New Year holiday to meet market demand.