Taiwan emerges as new playground for mainland China tourists
Chinese visitors to the island tripled last year after Taipei relaxed rules
Taiwan may be quietly emerging as a substitute tourism destination for mainland visitors, particularly as the fascination for Hong Kong seems to be waning as discontent rises in the city over the influx of mainlanders.
A Nielsen survey shows that more than 95 per cent of independent Chinese tourists who visited Taiwan in the past year want to make a return trip and more than half plan to revisit in the coming year.
This might make Taiwan a new playground for China's growing army of super-rich, replacing Hong Kong. Since Beijing began to allow people from 49 mainland cities to visit Hong Kong without joining tour groups in 2003, the number of visitors to the city has risen steadily and spiked at 41 million last year. But a recent university poll shows about two-thirds of Hong Kong people want controls to slow the inflow.
An incident sparked by a mainland child urinating on a Mong Kok street last month was seen by many as a sign of growing anger at mainland tourists. Many Hongkongers have expressed concern over mainland visitors disrupting public order and straining the city's limited resources.
The individual visitor scheme adopted a decade ago has brought tens of billions of Hong Kong dollars in revenues for the city each year.
In comparison, Taiwan's tourism market was opened to individual visitors from the mainland only from June 2011. Taiwan has also put certain checks in place, such as limiting the length of stay and requiring people from smaller mainland cities to travel in tour groups.
The number of mainland visitors has soared nonetheless, with independent travellers tripling last year from a year earlier to 522,443, according to Taiwan's official data.
Mainland tourists favour sites ranging from Taipei 101 to National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and buy pineapple cakes, facial care products and local teas.
Mark Williams of Capital Economics said the burgeoning outbound tourism has caused the mainland's services trade deficit to balloon, with the number of resident departures more than doubling in the past four years.