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Chinese mainland tourists enjoy the sightseeing in Taiwan, some from a special train that wends its way over Ali Mountain. [Provided to China Daily]
BEIJING/TAIPEI -- Residents of ten additional Chinese mainland cities will be allowed to travel to Taiwan as independent tourists, according to a deal reached between organizations from both sides of the Strait on Sunday.
Residents of Tianjin, Chongqing, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Chengdu will be allowed to visit Taiwan individually starting from April 28, according to a deal reached by the Chinese mainland's Association for Tourism Exchanges Across the Taiwan Strait and Taiwan's Taiwan Strait Tourism Association.
The agreement also states that residents of Jinan, Xi'an, Fuzhou and Shenzhen will be permitted to visit individually before the end of the year. Previously, only residents from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen were allowed to make individual trips.
Under the new agreement, the quota for mainland individual tourists to Taiwan will be increased to 1,000 per day from the current 500.
The new move was welcomed by individual businesses as a potential stimulus for the island' s service and tourism sectors.
Pai Chung-Ren, president of the Taiwan-based Certified Travel Councillor Association, predicted that more young people will travel to the island because of their preference for traveling alone.
"They have strong purchasing power and are generally well-educated. I believe they will have a greater understanding of Taiwan after traveling individually," Pai said.
Mainland tourism companies have predicted a sharp increase for cross-Straits tourism. In Fujian, Taiwan's nearest mainland province, tourism companies have signed agreements with their Taiwanese counterparts to deepen industry exchanges and cooperation.
In a bid to meet increasing demand, the Xiaoshan Airport in Hangzhou will open a regular flight to Hualien in east Taiwan, making for a total of four regular flights between the two cities.
Xu Peng, deputy director of the Tourism Bureau of East China's Zhejiang province, said the local tourism industry is ready for a travel boom, with many agencies launching a variety of services targeted at individual travelers.
Wu Chin-feng, deputy director of the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association (TSTA)'s Beijing office, said the association will visit the newly approved cities soon to organize promotional activities.
He said individual tourists are expected to benefit Taiwan's small- and medium-sized enterprises, adding that the island's ability to accommodate and transport increased numbers of tourists has been improved.
Lu Wan-ciuan, a jewelry dealer, said the impact of strengthened tourism will not be limited to financial gain, stating that mainland tourists will have an opportunity to cement people-to-people ties and promote mutual understanding.
Taiwan first opened its doors to independent tourists from three mainland cities on June 28 last year. Since then, over 57,000 residents have traveled there. An overall ban on traveling to the island was lifted by Taiwanese authorities in July 2008. Before June 2011, mainlanders could only travel to the island as part of tightly-run tour groups, business trips, academic visits and trips related to family affairs.
The mainland is currently the biggest source of tourists to the island.In 2011, more than 1.78 million mainland residents visited Taiwan, a year-on-year increase of 9.4 percent. Mainlanders accounted for nearly one-third of the 6.08 million visitors the island received last year, according to Taiwanese tourism authorities.