Taiwan individual travel date confirmed
Updated: 2011-06-13 16:13
By Wei Tian and Hu Meidong (China Daily)
Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen residents to be first visitors in pilot program
XIAMEN, Fujian - The date when mainland tourists can visit Taiwan as individuals was officially confirmed on Sunday.
"On June 28 the Chinese mainland and Taiwan will launch a pilot travel program that will allow mainland travelers to visit Taiwan individually," Wang Yi, director of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, announced at the weeklong Straits Forum in the coastal city of Xiamen, Fujian province.
The first phase of the program will apply to residents in Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen. Fujian residents will also be allowed to travel individually to Jinmen, Matsu and Penghu.
Agreement was reached to increase the number of cross-Straits passenger flights by more than 50 percent to 558 flights per week, Wang said.
To expand cross-Straits exchanges, the mainland will add four more cities, Yancheng, Wenzhou, Huangshan and the northwestern city of Lanzhou, as stops for cross-Straits flights, while Taiwan will also add two more, Tainan and Kaohsiung.
"The overall number of destinations for cross-Straits air routes will be increased to 50," Wang said.
Statistics show that mainlanders made 930,000 trips to Taiwan in 2009 and 1.63 million in 2010. The number is expected to exceed 2 million in 2011 due to individual tourists.
Tourism between the mainland and Taiwan has increased significantly since a previous travel ban was lifted in July 2008.
"We have been receiving a large number of inquiries since the news emerged that individuals could travel," said Ge Lei from China Youth Travel Agency.
Taiwan will possibly overtake Japan as the third most popular tourist destination in Asia for mainland travelers, after Hong Kong and Singapore, Ge said.
The agency is now receiving orders for individual trips to Taiwan, but the cost will probably be 50 percent higher than on a group tour.
"I'm really looking forward to it and will definitely sign up for an individual trip," said Lu Xin, a Xiamen resident who had previously traveled to the island as part of a group.
"I had many regrets on my last trip. We didn't have much time. I'm looking forward to exploring the island in-depth this time, and may spend more time visiting friends," he said.
Taiwan media reported that daily individual tourists to the island might be limited to 500, but would bring NT$15 billion ($521million) a year to the economy.
During the forum, which is hosting more than 10,000 guests from Taiwan, potential tourists from the mainland are already getting special offers.
On Xiamen's Zhongshan Road, the Temple Fair Night Market of Taipei was duplicated. One restaurant was giving "buy one get one free" coupons with meals in the hope of attracting customers.
"For each bowl we sell we give a 27 yuan ($4) coupon, which can be used in our head store in Taipei and Keelong," said a staff member at Master Hung's Noodle Shop.
"We are going to launch a travel route that will cover all the important tourist sites so that mainland travelers will be able to fully enjoy Taiwan's scenery," Tsai said.
"We shall also have preferential policies to offer 50 percent discounts" for the first 1,000 travelers from the mainland, he added.
Like Tsai, Taiwan's Taoyuan county magistrate Wu Chih-Yang and his wife were highlighting their county's specialty products and its tourist attractions.
"I hope that the forum will be held in Taiwan someday, and Taoyuan will be very glad to host it," Wu said.
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