Golden Week boost for Taiwan tourism

Updated: 2011-09-15 07:47

By Tan Zongyang and Yu Ran (China Daily)

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BEIJING/Shanghai - More mainland tourists are expected to visit Taiwan during the upcoming one-week National Day holiday from Oct 1, giving a boost to the island's tourism, which has not had as many individual mainland tourists as expected., one of China's leading online travel services, said in a news release the number of individual tourists to the island is expected to double during the Golden Week holiday.

The company also estimates that visitors from the mainland will significantly increase in the fourth quarter, which is normally regarded as the best season to travel in the island.

"I chose to visit Taiwan because the vacation is long enough for such a trip," said Tang Yu, a 25-year-old Shanghai resident. "I would like to explore the island on an individual basis, as the experience will be different from following a tour-group schedule."

In late June, a pilot tourism program was agreed by both sides of the Straits, which allowed mainland tourists to visit the island as individuals rather than in tour groups, although the number is capped at 500 a day.

However, mainland tourists have so far been less enthusiastic than expected.

Statistics from the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association show that in the first month after the new policy took effect only 633 individual tourists visited Taiwan.

"Business in the past two months has not been as good as we expected," said Huang Te-chen, general manger of China Travel Services, a Taiwan travel agency.

"More than half of the individual visitors from the mainland were not really here for sightseeing but visiting relatives or friends."

Fan Liqing, a spokeswoman for the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Wednesday that there are several reasons for the lukewarm market.

The new tourism policy still needs time to influence the market and the authorities are trying to simplify the application for individuals, which many consider too "complicated", Fan said.

In contrast to the sluggish individual tour market, group visits to the island have remained very popular.

According to the office, 770,000 mainland tourists visited Taiwan in tour groups in the first eight months this year, and in August alone, 90,600 tourists made group trips, up 17.6 percent on the number last year.

"The 10 groups for Taiwan during the National Day holiday were fully booked in the middle of August," said Cao Lu of the Taiwan tours department for Shanghai Airlines Tours.

Last year, 1.66 million tourists from the mainland visited Taiwan.

Jin Huiyu contributed to this story.