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Officials paint rosy picture of cross-strait tourism

2010/08/13 21:35:53

Taipei, Aug. 13 (CNA) A visiting Chinese tourism official saidFriday that the annual number of Chinese tourists to Taiwan isexpected to hit 3 million soon and urged the two sides to makeadequate preparations.

"It has been two years since Taiwan opened itself to mainlandtourists and the number of visiting tourists has since beenincreasing at a rate beyond our expectations, " Shao Qiwei, chairman of the China National Tourism Administration and the Cross-StraitTourism Association, said at the opening ceremony.

"If things go well, the number of visits made by mainlandtourists to Taiwan could reach 1.2 million for 2010," he said, notingthat "all direct cross-strait flights fill up."

The figure could exceed 1.5 million this year if the number ofvisiting Chinese professionals is included, which would mark a 109percent increase year on year, Shao said.

In 2009, Chinese tourists made 606,174 visits to Taiwan, up 200percent from a year earlier, according to Taiwan's official figures.

Since Taiwan opened to Chinese tourists in July 2008, Chinesetourists -- who are only allowed to travel in Taiwan as part of tourgroups -- have made a total of 1.28 million visits to Taiwan.

Against this backdrop, the number of Chinese tourist arrivals toTaiwan should soon beat the 3 million target, Shao said.

Shao, at the head of a Chinese delegation, is visiting Taiwan toattend the 2010 Taipei Cross-Strait Travel Fair, which opened Fridayand will run through Aug. 16.

A record of nearly 1,200 representatives from 190 tourismassociations or travel agencies throughout China took part in thefair, the organizers added, saying that a total of 871 booths are inuse, including 516 by Taiwanese exhibitors.

This year's fair is three times larger than past fairs.

The organizers predicted that the total number of visitors to thefair would surpass 150,000.

While Chinese exhibitors showcased folk songs and dances andmartial arts performances at their booths, exhibitors at the Taiwanagricultural pavilion provided samples of tea, dried fruit, nutcrackers, sausages, dried squid and other well-known local food.

"Taiwan has very good agriculture and we hope to promote Taiwan'sagricultural products here at the fair, " exhibitor Lin Yu-ping toldthe Central News Agency at the event.

Janice Lai, director-general of Taiwan's Tourism Office and theStrait Tourism and Travel Association, said Taiwanese made 4.08million visits to China last year, with the figure likely to hit 5million this year.

"We don't just want to appeal to Chinese tourists, but also thosefrom other parts of the world," she said.

Wang Yixue, the honorary president of China's Huangshan MunicipalAssociation of Travel Services, told CNA that his association wastaking part in the fair for its fifth year in a row.

"Taiwan has been a major source of tourists to Mount Huang and wewant to use this opportunity to help local people understand how toenjoy an in-depth tour there," he said.

(By Alex Chiang and Flor Wang)