Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) A program that allows independent travel by Chinese tourists to Taiwan will be expanded, a Taiwanese tourism official said Wednesday.
Chang Shi-chung, deputy director-general of the Tourism Bureau and vice president of the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association (TSTA), said the TSTA and its Chinese counterpart the Cross-Strait Tourism Association (CSTA) have reached an agreement to extend the free independent travel program to an additional number of Chinese cities.
Currently, residents of 13 Chinese cities - Jinan, Xian, Fuzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen, Tianjin, Chongqing, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chengdu – are permitted to travel to Taiwan as independent visitors and not just in tour groups.
Visitor arrivals from China last year totaled 2.58 million, an annual increase of 44.96 percent, according to the TSTA's Beijing office.
Of that number, 190,676 were by independent travelers, which represented an annual increase of 529.69 percent, the office said.
The number of arrivals in tour groups rose 45.76 percent from the previous year to 1.78 million, it said.
The other 613,096 visits were for exchanges and business purposes, the TSTA said.
(By Lin Sheng-hsu, Tsai Su-jung and Lilian Wu)