Residents of more cities eligible to visit Taiwan
Updated: 2013-06-17 01:27
By SUN LI and HU MEIDONG in Xiamen, Fujian (China Daily)
Residents of 13 more cities on the Chinese mainland will be eligible to travel to Taiwan as individual tourists, according to an announcement made on Sunday at the fifth Straits Forum in Xiamen, Fujian province.
As a result of recent negotiations between tourism authorities on both sides of the Straits, residents of Shenyang, Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Suzhou, Ningbo and Qingdao will be able to visit Taiwan individually starting from June 28, said Shao Qiwei, head of the National Tourism Administration.
Residents of Shijiazhuang, Changchun, Hefei, Changsha, Nanning, Kunming and Quanzhou will have to wait until Aug 28, he said.
The move will bring the total number of cities on the mainland that allow individual tourists to 26, including the likes of Beijing and Shanghai. Tourists not from these cities can only travel to Taiwan via a tour.
Shao said more mainland travel agencies will be allowed to organize package tours to Taiwan soon.
The new move was hailed by Huang Liang-yu, a businesswoman from Kaohsiung in Taiwan, who said it will allow more mainlanders to know about the life and culture of Taiwan.
"Mainland tourists may have a wrong impression of Taiwan due to restrictions in terms of lodging and eating while they are on a package tour. Individual tours are much better," Huang said.
"Such a policy also provides remarkable convenience for those who have tied the knot with Taiwan compatriots, as they could visit their family on the other side of the Straits more easily," Huang said, adding she hopes individual tours will be open to all residents of the mainland someday.
A manager surnamed Guo with China Comfort Travel Group's Fujian branch said the move may result in a surge of mainlander tourists to Taiwan.
As individual travel to Taiwan was opened at the end of last year to residents of Fuzhou, the capital city of Fujian province, there was a sharp increase in individual tours, Guo said.
He said more young people tend to travel to the island due to their preference for traveling alone.
Ge Rui, who works as a public servant in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, said he felt excited about the program as he has long intended to visit Taiwan.
"I'm going to make a travel plan and pack my stuff. I'm sure an individual tour would help me know the island better," Ge said.
Dai Shugeng, a professor of economics at Xiamen University, said the tourism industry has played an increasingly important role in stimulating the economy and generating jobs.
"These individual tours to Taiwan, which have benefited and will continue to benefit Taiwan's economy, are important channels for facilitating cross-Straits people exchanges," Dai said.
Taiwan first opened its door to individual tourists from mainland cities on June 28, 2011, but only to residents of three major cities — Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen.
In 2012, another 10 mainland cities — Chengdu, Tianjin, Nanjing, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Jinan, Xi'an, Fuzhou and Shenzhen — joined the list.
Before June 2011, mainlanders could only travel to the island as part of tour groups, business trips, academic visits and trips related to family affairs. According to the Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Straits, individual mainland tourists to Taiwan surged 553 percent in 2012 from the previous year.
The number of Chinese mainlanders traveling to Taiwan as individual tourists from January to May totaled 166,000, an increase of 237 percent year-on-year. By the end of May, 385,800 mainlanders had traveled to the island as individual tourists.