In the latest effort to push for closer bilateral exchanges, Taiwan's top negotiator with the mainland yesterday proposed to expand recently launched cross-Straits charter flights and tourism schemes.
Chiang Pin-kun, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), made the appeal less than one month after his organization signed historic deals with its mainland counterpart on the two schemes.
Under landmark agreements signed on June 13 in Beijing between the SEF and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), Taipei agreed to open the island to mainland tourists and launch weekend charter flights.
"The two agreements are significant and pivotal but we still have a lot to do for the next step," Chiang told Shao Qiwei, director of the National Administration of Tourism and chairman of the Cross-Straits Tourism Communication Association.
Shao, as head of the 750-member inaugural mainland tour group to Taiwan, arrived in the island last Friday for a seven-day inspection.
Chiang expressed his hope to expand the number of destinations and flights for the cross-Straits weekend charter service and allow more mainland tourists to visit the island.
"The increase in the number of destinations and flights will facilitate travel for Taiwan business people and mainland tourists based in different regions of the mainland," Chiang said.
"There is also the need to gradually adjust the number of mainland tourists visiting Taiwan and improve the facilities of tourist spots in Taiwan."
The SEF and ARATS have agreed to start the second round of talks within three months.
Chiang's proposal reflects Taiwan's high expectations for the economic benefits from the arrival of mainland tourists to help revive the island's sagging economy.
Taiwan stocks fell below the key 7,000-point level yesterday to their lowest intraday mark in nearly two years, in what many say is a sign of a lack of confidence in the stock market.
Taiwan's consumer price index in June rose 4.97 per cent from a year earlier, the highest in eight months.
Chiang stressed that the cross-Straits charter flight and travel arrangement will have a positive impact on Taiwan's economic development.
It has been estimated that 3,000 mainland visitors arriving daily will bring in 60 billion Taiwan dollars ($1.97 billion) annually.
Shao said the mainland holds huge potential for Taiwan's tourism sector, and both sides should strive for a long-term and sustainable development of cross-Straits tourism.
In line with the agreement between the ARATS and SEF, Taiwan will receive a maximum of 3,000 mainland tourists from 13 mainland provinces and municipalities daily in the first year, and will raise the quota as it expands weekend charter flights to daily charter flights and, eventually, to regular flights.
The mainland will first open Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen and Nanjing for the charter flights, and will gradually add Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Dalian, Guilin and Shenzhen, with possibly more locations if needed.
Taiwan will have eight terminals for the latest service: Taipei, Taoyuan, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Penghu, Hualien, Kinmen and Taitung.
The service, which started on July 4, includes 36 return flights for every weekend, running each Friday to the following Monday, with the number scheduled to increase according to demand.
Source: China Daily