Taiwan eases travel limits on mainlanders in HK

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 September, 2009, 12:00am

Mainlanders who have worked in Hong Kong for a year as well as members of their family who are living in the city will be allowed to travel to Taiwan from next month, the director general of the island's Tourism Bureau says.

Currently, mainlanders in the city may visit Taiwan only after living here for at least four years.

The relaxed rule would benefit about 300,000 mainlanders in Hong Kong, the bureau's chief, Janice Lai Seh-jen, said.

'We expect the scheme can start from October' after the Executive Yuan and the Mainland Affairs Council gave their approval, Lai said before a dinner in Taipei with members of the Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents.

Association chairman Michael Wu Siu-ieng welcomed the change, as the trade believed it would create more business opportunities.

'It is an untapped market,' Wu said. 'With the current regulation, there is no way we can organise any tours for these people. But now we can.'

He believed the scheme could cover 450,000 people and that the trade had begun preparations for these potential customers.

Taiwanese destinations sought out by mainlanders were different to Hongkongers' choices.

'Mainlanders love to visit traditional sightseeing spots such as the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and the Palace Museum,' Wu said, while Hong Kong people preferred to explore new places since most of them had been to Taiwan before.

He estimated that group tour prices for mainlanders in the city would range from HK$3,000 to HK$4,000 per person.

Taiwan has been opening up to mainlanders as part of efforts to improve cross-strait relations and increase the island's tourism revenue. Up to 3,000 mainlanders a day are now allowed to visit Taiwan, but they must travel in groups and only day trips are permitted.