Taipei, June 19 (CNA) Taiwan's cosmetic surgery sector urged the government on Sunday to extend the amount of time independent travelers from China will be allowed to stay in Taiwan to help boost medical tourism.
Speaking at a cross-Taiwan Strait medical forum, Huang Sung-hsiung, chairman of the Taiwan Cross-Strait Medical Interchange Association, urged the government to extend the maximum permissible stay to one month to give potential patients more time to recover.
Under Taiwan's current framework for the free independent travelers (FIT) program, which will begin on June 28, a maximum of 500 Chinese nationals will be allowed to visit Taiwan for pleasure without having to be part of a tour group.
Eligible Chinese visitors will be allowed to stay in Taiwan for a maximum of 15 days, and those who fail to follow the regulations will be barred entry to Taiwan for three years.
Travel agencies that handle independent Chinese tourist visits will also be held responsible for any violations.
Responding to the medical sector's request, Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung said the 15-day stay is just a beginning.
Chiang, whose agency is responsible for communications and negotiations with China, said the FIT program would benefit the cosmetic surgery sector because it would allow Chinese tourists to meet their own travel needs rather than being restricted to a tour group itinerary.
To avoid potential medical disputes, the government has also suggested that Chinese tourists have cosmetic surgery done at large medical centers such as National Taiwan University Hospital and Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
The sector has pinned high hopes on the potential spending power of Chinese tourists.
According to recently released figures, 3.36 million Chinese nationals visited Taiwan between July 2008, when Taiwan opened its doors wider to Chinese tourists, and April 30 and spent NT$195.8 billion (US$6.76 billion) during their stay in Taiwan.
(By Chen Li-ting and Hanna Liu)