This sounds like a positive step in something that’s long overdue.
A senior Chinese tourism official began a key visit to Taiwan Friday that could help revive the island’s beleaguered tourism sector and ease tensions between the longtime rivals.
Shao Qiwei, director of China’s State Administration of Tourism, was to inspect Taiwanese tourist facilities at the head of a 66-member delegation on a 10-day visit, in what is widely seen as a prelude to including the island on a list of approved tourist destinations for mainland Chinese.
But for any decision to take effect, Taiwan’s government will have to agree to opening its doors to the visitors.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. While there were more than one million Taiwanese visits to the mainland in 2004, visits by Chinese to Taiwan have been severely limited, ostensibly because of Taiwanese concerns over potential spies or saboteurs.
Earlier this year, China dusted off a proposal to expand the number of its tourists visiting Taiwan to 360,000 a year — more than 10 times the current level.
At the time Taiwan spurned the offer, saying it needed further study.
Since then, however, the government has come under heavy pressure from Taiwan’s beleaguered tourism industry, which views the Chinese market as a key element in its future growth.
With only three million arrivals in 2004, the island lags far behind Asian neighbors like Thailand and Malaysia in drawing foreign visitors.
Taiwan really has to get its act together in becoming more tourism friendly, and in recognizing the importance of Chinese tourists. Malaysia, Singapore, HK and Thailand (and China) are practically obsessed with building up tourism, and rightly so, as it’s a relatively easy way to boost businesses and growth. Unlike these other countries, Taiwan borders on being tourist-hostile, with a lot of important signage in the airport in Chinese only and precious little promotion of its attractions.
Chinese tourists have been a goldmine for Hong Kong, no matter how much the Honkies hate the Mainlanders. In every way, the current cold-shoulder policy Taiwan has shown to Chinese tourism is self-defeating and dumb. It’s time to grow up. And it’s also time to have regular, affordable flights between the ROC and the PRC. If I take one of the very few direct flights from here to Shanghai, a three-hour or so flight, it’s an obscene $800 USD! If I go via Hong Kong, it’s less than $425 but it takes me all day. Please, do everyone a favor and enter the modern age.