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Mainland tourist officials visit Taiwan
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-28 06:13

A delegation consisting of more than 60 tourist officials from the mainland is expected to arrive in Taiwan today for a 10-day market inspection visit.

Shao Qiwei, director of the State Administration of Tourism, heads the team, which will see scenic spots and tourism facilities around the island.

The visit is widely seen as a prelude for the opening of Taiwan to tourists from the mainland, which has been banned since the political split in 1949.

"The mission is to inspect tourist routes, facilities and services on the island, including specific scenic spots, hotels, transport and shopping facilities as well as the security guarantees," said Zhang Jianzhong, spokesman for the top tourism administration, at a news conference yesterday.

The delegates are also expected to hold talks with representatives of travel agents and tourism associations on opening Taiwan to mainland tourists as soon as possible, Zhang said.

Shao's visit was in his capacity as chairman of the China Tourism Association, at the invitation of the Taiwan Visitors Association.

"The group will not engage in any talks with Taiwan officials during their visit," Zhang told reporters.

Beijing said in May it plans to relax restrictions for tourists travelling to the island.

Currently, Taiwan only allows supervised groups of 15 to 40 tourists from the mainland on 10-day visas and limits arrival numbers to 1,000 a day.

Although the exact date for the opening of Taiwan to tourists from the mainland remains unknown, insiders reckon the market is vast.

"We have been designing routes for 9-day, 10-day and 11-day tours on the island since May, when the nation announced the relaxation of restrictions on tourists travelling to Taiwan," an official from the Beijing-based China CYTS Tours Holding Co Ltd told China Daily in a telephone interview yesterday.

The official, who declined to be named, quoted a document from the tourism administration saying that more mainlanders are expected to travel to Taiwan early next year.

(China Daily 10/28/2005 page2)

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