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More tourists want to visit Taiwan
Date:2011/11/8      View:1782
 
Although winter is yet to arrive, Xia Tingting has been shopping for clothes to wear in spring, when she goes to Taiwan, to attend an outdoor Spring Scream Music Festival on the island's southern beach resort Kenting in April.

The 27-year-old Chongqing native, for whom the music carnival is going to be a stop in a do-it-yourself journey, if all goes according to plan, said she gave up a chance to visit the island with her parents three years ago.

"I prefer making travel plans more flexible," she said. "Visiting traditional scenic spots doesn't have much appeal for young people like me.

"I prefer to wander around the streets in Taipei and taste street snacks that other people have recommended online."

It's going to take a while yet before her dream is fulfilled, as Chongqing residents are not eligible to visit Taiwan as individual tourists. But this situation is expected to change.

In June, Taiwan first opened its door to 290 mainland individual tourists, but only residents of three selected cities - Beijing, Shanghai and Fujian's Xiamen - were allowed to go.

About four months later, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council announced that the mainland tourism authority has proposed to include more mainland cities in the trial program, without giving specifics.

There's going to be an addition of two to five cities on the new list. Tianjin, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing and Hangzhou are the most competitive candidates, the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily reported, citing insiders as saying.

Liu Yanxian, deputy head of the marketing department of Chongqing tourist bureau, told China Daily that the city was highly likely to edge past the others.

"Chongqing is a metropolis in Southwest China having many historical connections with the island," he said. "And the city has established direct air links with Taiwan a long time ago."

Ma Yiliang, a researcher at China Tourism Academy, said there were several reasons why different mainland cities were competing to send visitors to Taiwan.

"By pushing forward individual tourism, the local government can win the public's favor. The program could also bring economic benefits and improve the image of the concerned city," Ma said.

However, some tourism agencies were skeptical about the necessity of introducing a new tourism program at the moment.

"The turnout of individual tourists was far less than expected on earlier occasions," said Allen Y. L. Hai, chairman of the Taiwan-based Pro-Tour Express. "I don't believe adding more cities could change the situation."

Statistics from the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association show that in June, the first month Taiwan opened its doors to individual tourists from the mainland, only 633 visited the island.

The market share of the mainland's individual tourists was quite small compared to that of group tours, numbering 3,000 to 4,000 people a day, Hai said. "I suggest expanding the group tourism market first, rather than rushing to open more cities for individual tours."

Ma said the program hasn't taken off that well as the application procedure for individual tours is not convenient, and the cost is usually higher than that of going as part of a group.

"Taiwan tourism authorities should develop more travel products, and offer something different from group tour routes," Ma said.

Last year, about 1.66 million mainland tourists visited Taiwan, while the number of mainland tourists traveling to Hong Kong reached 22.68 million.
 
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