The nation could see a double-digit percentage drop in Chinese visitors because Beijing has restricted the issuance of travel permits to Taiwan, Minister of Transportation and Communications Chen Jian-yu (陳建宇) said yesterday at a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee in Taipei.
Chen said the reduction is not yet apparent based on National Immigration Agency’s data, but tour service operators and its sources of information in China had told the ministry that Beijing is reducing the number of Chinese visitors by limiting the issuance of travel passes to Taiwan.
“We estimate that the number of Chinese travelers would decrease by 30 percent, and the decline would begin to manifest itself in the latter half of this month,” he said.
Civil Aeronautics Administration Deputy Director-General Fang Chih-wen (方志文) said that the summer schedule for cross-strait flights shows the number of flights decreasing by 29 per week compared with the winter schedule, including 10 flights from Chinese carriers and 19 flights from Taiwanese carriers.
However, that represents an overall decrease of only 4 percent, which is not significant, he said.
Fang added that carriers have continued to apply for new flight services in line with their corporate strategies and do not seem to be suspending plans to launch new services.
Chen said Beijing had already indicated that the number of Chinese tourists would be determined based on developments in cross-strait relations and the tourism market.
He said that China should not enforce any measure that would hurt the feelings of people across the Taiwan Strait and affect the development of the tourism industry.
“We will reiterate these principles at the cross-strait meeting between tourism officials, which will take place later this month,” he said.
Tourism Bureau Director-General David Hsieh (謝謂君) said that his agency had tried to verify this information through its contacts in China, who have denied such a policy restricting travel to Taiwan.
About 40 percent of the nation’s foreign visitors come from China, lawmakers said.
Tourism Bureau statistics show that tourist arrivals last year totaled 10.44 million, of which 4.18 million were Chinese visitors.
Lawmakers said the government should not put all its eggs in one basket and should work to attract tourists throughout the region.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) and Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said that the government’s streamlining of visa application procedures for tourists from India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines joining high-end tour groups have had only a limited effect.
Lee said that from November last year to last month, only 6,000 tourists used the program, accounting for a mere 2 percent of the total from these countries.
He said that travel from those countries to Taiwan takes only four to six hours, but Taiwan remains a relatively unknown tourist destination to most of them.
Yeh asked why Taiwanese are able to travel to 164 countries around the world visa-free, but Taiwan offers reciprocal services to only 73 countries.
She disagreed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ rationale for not waiving visas for tourists from Southeast Asia.
The ministry has said that Southeast Asian tourists might overstay or work illegally in Taiwan.