Friday, September 23, 2005

Asia Times Article on Chinese Tourists in Taiwan

The Asia Times reports on the Taiwan government's decision to open tourism in Taiwan to (wealthier) Chinese:

Currently, 61 Taiwan travel agents are entitled to conduct this business. Chinese tourists have to prove that they have full-time employment or own at least NT$200,000 in assets. Such tourists will also only be allowed to enter and leave Taiwan in tour groups of between 15 and 40 people, which must include a tour guide. Permission to visit Taiwan will not be granted to Chinese civil servants, military or political officials, or Chinese citizens who have broken the law within five years before their applications. Chinese tourists attending a seven-day tour are entitled to have one day of free time, while those attending eight to ten-day tours are entitled to one-and-a-half days of free time. But on such days, the tourists are required to be back at their hotels by 11pm.

The restrictions do not end there. Travel agents managing Chinese tourists are required to check and report on the status of the tourists to the Tourism Bureau within two hours of their arrival and departure in Taiwan. In the event of overstays by their clients, travel agents can be banned from bringing more groups to Taiwan. The bans can last from between one month to a year, depending on the number of clients who overstay their visas.

Travel agents will have their quotas for Chinese tourists reduced if too many overstay their visas or disappear. Eric Chang, chairman of Taiwan's China International Youth Travel Service, noted that the mechanism is actually not fair to travel agents, since it places responsibility on local travel agents to verify Chinese tourists' identifications. "If the government cannot do so, how can we?" he noted, adding that it is unlikely that many Chinese tourists would "escape", since due to the net worth requirements, these tourists are nominally far wealthier than the average Taiwanese.

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