TAIPEI, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) — The Taipei Cross-Strait Travel Fair opened here Friday, with tourist operators from Taiwan and the mainland eagerly participating, while officials said that the fair would help promote healthy and orderly travel development across the Taiwan Strait.
The fair, the sixth of its kind, has attracted about 800 tourist operators and officials from 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions of the Chinese mainland. More than 200 booths are set up for the mainland’s travel operators, while Taiwan counterparts command 120 booths.
Zhu Shanzhong, honorary deputy head of the mainland-based Cross-Strait Tourism Exchange Association (CTEA)， said at the opening ceremony that “the Taipei Cross-Strait Travel Fair has become an important window for showing the mainland’s travel resources, an important composition for cross-Strait travel exchanges, and a fine channel for Taiwan compatriots to better learn and understand the Chinese mainland.”
Yinama Naisierding, president of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Tourism Association told Xinhua that “we not only bring travel products to the fair but art performances. We hope that our Taiwan compatriots can gain a deeper understanding of Xinjiang through our introduction and art performances, so that more Taiwan tourists come to Xinjiang.”
The Chinese mainland Thursday eased restrictions on package tours to Taiwan by making it easier for residents living in different parts of the mainland to travel together with family to the island. Under old rules, a mainland resident could only join a package tour to Taiwan in the place where he or she held a residence permit, or hukou in Chinese.
Now, a mainland resident can also join a package tour in places where his or her lineal relatives hold residence permits, said a statement from the National Tourism Administration (NTA).
In addition, the NTA’s new policy also allows travel agencies to organize tours for a group of people holding different residence permits if they work for the same corporation or organization.
Lai Se-chun, head of the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association Friday expressed appreciation for the new policies at the opening ceremony of the travel fair, saying that she believed cross-Strait travel exchanges could reach new highs through mutual efforts from both sides.
Statistics from the CTEA show that the number of Taiwan tourists who traveled to the Chinese mainland in 2010 reached 5.14 million, up 14.64 percent from the previous year. And they spent 5.74 billion U.S. dollars during their Chinese mainland trips.
From January to August of 2011, the number of Taiwan tourists visiting the Chinese mainland reached 3.54 million, up 2.46 percent from the same period of last year.
Meanwhile, the number of Chinese mainland tourists traveling to Taiwan in groups has reached 2.82 million since mid 2008, when the authorities in Taiwan lifted a ban on mainlanders’ traveling to Taiwan. Moreover, since June 28, 2011, mainlanders have been allowed to travel in Taiwan as individual tourists.
Chuang Yu-Meng, a senior official with the Taichung travel bureau told Xinhua at the fair that he expected an increasing number of mainland tourists to travel as individuals to Taichung after the more recent law change, as Taichung city is not only a good travel destination in itself, but an important transport hub. From there, it is easy to reach other famous destinations, such as Ali mountain and the Sun Moon Lake.
Chuang and his colleagues brought travel brochures and distinctive Taichung food such as pineapple cakes to the travel fair as promotion.