Chinese mainland, Taiwan likely to exchange tourism offices in February

14:44, January 13, 2010      

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The Chinese mainland and Taiwan are likely to open tourism representative offices on each side of the Taiwan Strait around the Lunar New Year, said a mainland spokesman Wednesday.

The offices were expected to open around the Spring Festival that falls on Feb. 14, said Yang Yi, spokesman with the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, at a press conference in Beijing.

The mainland had become the second largest source of tourists to Taiwan, he said. Last year, 606,200 mainland tourists formed 23,289 groups to tour Taiwan.

But Yang gave no details about the offices at the press conference.

Taiwan lifted the ban on mainland tourists in June 2008, and the first group of mainland tourists arrived in July that year.

The past year saw a "healthy and orderly" development of tourism across the strait thanks to close cooperation between the two sides, Yang said.

In the past year, the mainland allowed residents from 25 provinces and municipalities to travel to Taiwan, up from 13 in the original agreement.

Taiwan reduced the minimum members of a mainland travel group from 10 to five persons and extended the maximum stay from 10 to 15 days.

However, the industry complained of restrictions such as that of residence permits. A mainland resident has to join in Taiwan tour packages in the place where he holds a permanent residence permit, instead of where he actually lives.

"As the business just started for one and half years ago, many things are in the early stage," Yang said. "The tourism department will lift restrictions on tourist residence permits step by step, based on the development of the business."

When the conditions were ready, it was also likely to allow mainland residents to travel independently, he said.

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