Mainland tourists to visit Taiwan as individuals

TAIPEI – Tourists from selected cities on the Chinese mainland will be able to travel across the Taiwan Straits as individual tourists by the end of June, said a senior mainland negotiator on Wednesday.

However, tourism associations on both sides of the Straits need time to finalize the details and exchange documents before the policy officially takes effect, said Zheng Lizhong, vice-president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS).

The policy will take effect “very soon”, within this month, he added.

The cities named so far include Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen and the number of cross-Straits flights is to be increased from the current 370 a week to 550 a week.

Zheng made the statement after a meeting between ARATS and its Taiwan counterpart the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).

Negotiators from ARATS and SEF held the meeting to review the implementation of cross-Straits agreements and discuss some of the challenges that have arisen.

The two sides have sealed 15 pacts since resuming regular talks in 2008.

“I believe the meeting will help improve the implementation of these pacts,” Zheng said.

The negotiators reviewed all the agreements except the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), which will be handled by another independent committee, and an agreement on medical and health cooperation, which has not yet taken effect.

The agreements discussed cover issues such as cross-Straits air services, food security, financial cooperation, agricultural quarantine procedures and judicial cooperation.

“It is understandable that we are facing new situations and problems during the implementation of these agreements. But both sides have been actively engaged in dealing with these problems,” Zheng said.

However, he added that it is necessary for both sides to show mutual respect and understanding, as some issues may not be solved under current conditions.

“As cross-Straits relations continue to deepen, solutions to these issues may appear,” he added.

The two sides previously held a meeting in Beijing in April to identify problems that have emerged in the implementation of the agreements, said Kao Koong-lian, secretary-general of SEF.

“I hope the two sides can settle most of these problems,” Kao added.

The policy to let in individual tourists is expected to attract more high-end tourists and benefit small local businesses and tourist sites that have so far been excluded from the regular sightseeing routes by travel agencies.

Zheng said the mainland will also allow Fujian residents to make individual visits to the outlying islands of Jinmen, Mazu and Penghu.

Travel agencies said the new inflow of individual mainland visitors may bring in NT$5 billion ($172 million) this year.

The mainland became the largest source of tourists for Taiwan last year after the island formally opened to mainland package tours in July 2008. About 1.2 million mainland tourists visited the island last year, a 128 percent increase from the preceding year.

Source: China Daily

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