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First Individual Chinese Travellers Visit Taiwan

Taipei City, TaiwanThe first group of Chinese travellers participating in the new individual travel programme set up between the mainland and Taiwan have arrived on the island. The group includes 282 individual tourists from Shanghai, Beijing and Xiamen. The newly eased travel restrictions are going to allow Chinese visitors to explore the island in new ways they have never been able to before. Travellers had been limited to only travelling with tour groups, but they are now able to plan their own itineraries.

Both men and women travellers between the ages of 5 and 91 are taking part in the new programme. The National Immigration Agency (NIA) says that about 291 Chinese nationals applied to go to Taiwan on the first day of the new scheme, and only 9 of the applications were rejected. Splitting up the number, 72 of the visitors are from Shanghai, 108 from Xiamen and 111 from Beijing were given permission to go. Those from Beijing arrived at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 11:45am on Tuesday. Some of them plan to see all of the nightclubs in Taipei (the capital), meet with old friends and combine business with pleasure.

Officials in Taiwan say that a major boost in revenue is expected from tourism now that mainland visitors will be able to roam freely – even though only residents from the three Chinese cities are allowed to visit on their own for now. Under the new programme, Taiwan hopes for an economic boom from individual Chinese visitors. Officials predict that the island can earn £188 million to £375 million a year this way.

It’s normal for travellers to move around on their own when visiting most other countries, but tensions between the mainland and island have only subsided recently after decades. China sees Taiwan as part of its country and has threatened to bring force on the island if it ever tries to declare formal independence. Despite this new deal and programme, which following the increase of tourist numbers in Taiwan, Taipei and Beijing aren’t taking such a big step without being cautious. Only 500 individual Chinese tourists from Shaghai, Beijing and Xiamen can enter Taiwan every day.

Taiwan is worried that this deal has given easier access to Chinese spies, but the restrictions seem to mostly come from the mainland. Tourists have to get permission before visiting Taiwan, as independent travellers can do anything they want when they arrive, including meeting up with Taiwan-based Chinese dissidents, members of the banned Falungong spiritual group and Tibetan activists. However, these kinds of things don’t look like they have made it onto the to-do lists of the tourists who have already arrived, as many say that they just want to see the island how they want or visit relatives.

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