The government has allowed shipping firms to offer direct passenger services between Penghu County and China since 2008, although none have yet applied to do so, Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said yesterday.
Wang made the remarks on the sidelines of a meeting at the legislature in Taipei in response to media queries for comment about Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) proposal to launch direct ferry services between the outlying county and China’s Fujian Province, as are offered from Kinmen and Lienchiang counties.
Han, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, made the promise to Penghu County Commissioner Lai Feng-wei (賴峰偉) at a campaign rally in Penghu on Sunday.
The county does not have a direct ferry service to China, even though it is permitted by law, Lai told Han, adding that the lack of such services means most Chinese tourists from Fujian arrive in Penghu via Kinmen.
Lai said that he has been working to establish direct services from Penghu to Xiamen and Pingtan, as well as direct flights from Penghu’s Magong Airport to Quanzhou Jinjiang International Airport.
However, as cross-strait affairs fall under the jurisdiction of the central government, none of these services would be realized if the government disapproves, he said.
Tourists from Fujian are indeed more likely to arrive in Penghu via Kinmen and Lienchiang, Wang said yesterday, adding that Penghu’s cross-strait shipping services are mostly for cargo.
Chinese tourists often arrive on chartered vessels, he said.
Penghu welcomes about 1.2 million domestic tourists annually and that number is rising at about 10 percent per year, he said.
The number of tourists visiting Penghu has grown from about 1.15 million in 2017 to 1.8 million last year, Tourism Bureau statistics showed.
About 1.1 million tourists have visited the outlying island this year to last month, an 11 percent increase from the same period last year, the statistics showed.
Penghu has emerged as a popular travel destination thanks to the government’s travel subsidy program, the bureau said.
The program has subsidized 173 tour groups and 88,000 independent visitors to the islands, it said.
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