China's pre-election travel cap still 'speculation'

Tourists from China wave as they arrive on a cruise ship in the northern Taiwan port of Keelung.
PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Tourism Bureau official Lai Ping-jung has said rumours that China has introduced a tourism cap, reducing the number of mainland Chinese visitors to Taiwan by 5 per cent in the month preceding the Taiwan presidential election in January next year, remains speculation as of press time.

According to public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong, the Taipei Association of Travel Agents (TATA) said that mainland authorities have notified each province's Tourism Administration to tighten tourist restrictions between Dec. 16 and Jan. 15.

The Apple Daily soon followed RTHK's reports with a statement from TATA Vice President, Ko Mu-chou, who reportedly said such measures have been imposed before general elections in the past, but this year will see particularly severe limitations.

Ko said the main intention is for Taiwanese businesspeople in mainland China to be able to head home to vote in the general elections.

According to Lai, the bureau picked up the rumour nearly a month ago. Though they have tried to obtain China's response on the issue through the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association and China's Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Straits, mainland China has not yet provided a clear explanation.

Lai stressed that the numbers of inbound mainland visitors in October have not dropped, and there are more groups set to arrive in Taiwan, up until Nov. 15.

However, Lai said if the rumours prove to be true, as long as mainland visitors apply for Taiwan entry permits before Dec. 15, the issued permit will be valid for three months - they would still be able to visit Taiwan between Dec. 16 and Jan. 15 next year.

As for worries looming for the tourism industry, most notably the concerns about potential policy changes in cross-strait traveling if Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai Ing-wen wins the election, Lai said the numbers of departures in China are growing, and mainland tourists prefer destinations where transportation is convenient.

For mainland visitors, Taiwan still remains a highly attractive travel location, and this would not likely be affected by the election, said Lai.

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