7-10 more Chinese cities could join individual travel program
March 8, 2012, 12:01 am TWN
TAIPEI--Taiwan might open its doors to individual tourists from another seven to 10 Chinese cities, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said yesterday.
"It is possible that we could see an expansion of the individual traveler program," said MAC Minister Lai Shin-yuan at a legislative session.
The program, which kicked off last June, allows up to 500 people from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen to visit Taiwan per day without having to travel as part of a tour group.
Previous reports have said the Chinese cities of Tianjin, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing and Jinan could be added to the list.
Although the Taipei-based Taiwan Strait Tourism Association and the Beijing-headquartered Cross-Strait Tourism Association are about to finalize relevant negotiations, Lai said it remains unknown whether the current daily quota will be changed.
According to the National Immigration Agency, the number of individual traveler program applicants has surged by 50 percent this year to 429 per day compared with 284 in 2011.
Following an increase in Taiwan China exchanges, the Taipei-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) said, the eighth round of high-level talks between the two sides is likely to take place in Taiwan in the first half of the year.
SEF Vice Chairman Kao Koong-lian said the next round of talks between SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung and Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) President Chen Yunlin will mainly focus on a long-stalled investment protection pact.
"We should be able to seal the agreement, as there are only minor differences left for the two sides to resolve," Kao said.
Taiwan is pushing for the investment pact because it wants to protect its businessmen in China, who can be vulnerable in disputes with local governments over land rights and compensation claims.
The SEF and ARATS are semi-official bodies responsible for cross-Taiwan Strait exchanges in the absence of government-to-government contact, and have been holding systematic negotiations every six months in Taiwan and China alternately.