Taipei, April 19 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said Tuesday that the recent decrease in the number of tourists from China is a political matter.
Ma told a delegation from the Monte Jade Science and Technology Association that foreign visitor arrivals to Taiwan reached 10.43 million last year, more than triple the 3.71 million per year recorded before he assumed office in 2008.
The Tourism Bureau has attributed the significant growth in tourist arrivals to cross-Taiwan Strait peace and liberalization during his term, the president said.
Ma said that when he met with Kaohsiung residents Sunday, they expressed concern about the falling number of visitor arrivals, a trend that he said is about to get worse.
"Everyone knows very well that this is not a business issue, but rather a political one," the president said.
Ever since Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won the presidential election on Jan. 16, there have been reports of China sending fewer tourists to Taiwan as a type of "political boycott" of the incoming DPP administration that will be sworn in on May 20.
Chinese travel agents had told their Taiwanese counterparts that the number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan would drop 30 percent in the three-month period between March 20 and June 30, according to a statement by the Travel Agent Association of the Republic of China, Taiwan, in January.
Data from Taiwan's Tourism Bureau showed that in the two-week period March 23 to April 5, the number of applications for Chinese tour groups to visit Taiwan fell 30 percent, while independent traveler applications dropped about 15 percent.
Last year, over 4 million Chinese tourists visited Taiwan, a number that was almost evenly split between independent travelers and those in tour groups, Tourism Bureau data showed.
(By Claudia Liu and Y.F. Low)