The Executive Yuan is ready to budget NT$3.6 billion (US$115.8 million) to subsidize domestic travelers in the fall and winter in response to China’s suspension of its individual travelers program to Taiwan, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said yesterday.
The subsidies would apply to group travelers and individuals going on domestic tours, he said on Facebook, adding that further details would be announced soon.
“Facing suppression from China, the government will not leave tourism operators hung out to dry,” Lin said.
Politics should have no place in the tourism industry, he said, adding that any oppressive move by Beijing would only serve to unite Taiwanese.
“Apparently, China is attempting to hold the tourism industry hostage by exerting its control over individual visitors and in turn interfere in Taiwan’s elections,” Lin said.
In anticipation of the possibility that Beijing could further reduce the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan, Lin said that he has spoken with Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) multiple times about potential responses, adding that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has been briefed on such plans.
The government was prepared for Beijing’s threatening move and will not let China suppress Taiwan without a fight, he said.
About 6 million international tourists visited Taiwan during the first half of this year, Lin said, adding that the number of visitors from countries other than China rose from 7.17 million in 2016 to 8.37 million last year.
The Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism yesterday announced on its Web site that “in view of the current status of cross-strait relations, the trial program allowing Chinese residents from 47 cities to travel in Taiwan individually would be temporarily suspended, starting Aug. 1.”
It is the first time that Beijing has restricted the number of individual travelers to Taiwan. It has previously only imposed similar restrictions on group travelers.
Some Chinese netizens said that the move could be related to Taiwan’s presidential election in January next year, while others said that it served as punishment for Taipei supporting protests in Hong Kong against a proposed bill to enable extraditions to China.
About 1.67 million Chinese visitors arrived in Taiwan from January to June, Tourism Bureau and National Immigration Agency statistics showed, a 30 percent increase from the same period last year.
Of those who came for tourism purposes, about 573,000 were part of a tour group and 633,000 were individuals, the data showed.
Last year, the nation welcomed about 754,000 group travelers and 1.07 million individual travelers from China, the data showed.
It was unfortunate that Beijing made such an announcement, the bureau said, adding that it would continue to welcome visits by Chinese travelers.
“We hope that China will quickly resume the program. There should be normal and positive interactions in the tourism industries across the Taiwan Strait, which should not be affected political or any specific factors,” the bureau said in a statement, adding that it would continue to monitor the number of Chinese visitors.
Local tourism operators estimated that the nation could lose 500,000 to 700,000 Chinese tourists in the next six months after China starts implementing the policy, saying that the repercussions of the policy could start to become evident in the middle of this month.
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