Taiwan to tackle resentment caused by influx of mainland tourists

Taiwan is working out a plan to prevent the flood of tourists from across the Strait causing the kind of resentment felt by Hongkongers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 1:46pm

Taiwan's government says it will formulate comprehensive measures to ensure that the increasing number of mainland visitors does not become a source of public grievance - as it has in Hong Kong.

With the mainland now replacing Japan as the biggest source of visitors to Taiwan, the Mainland Affairs Council, the island's top mainland policy planning body, said it had worked with relevant agencies to draft measures to address the issue.

"A set of comprehensive measures is necessary to avoid problems like those in Hong Kong," council spokeswoman Wu Mei-hung said yesterday.

Taiwan will soon increase its quota for mainland tourists travelling in groups to 5,000 from 4,000 a day, while the quota for individual tourists will double to 2,000 a day. Mainland tourists made some 2.6 million trips to Taiwan last year, up 45 per cent from 2011, says the Taipei-based Taiwan Strait Tourism Association.

While they have stimulated the development of hotels, tour bus companies, restaurants, shops and night markets, they have also started creating problems similar to those experienced in Hong Kong.

"Give me back the National Palace Museum," said Taipei resident Yang Wen-chung, angry about the huge number of mainland tourists swarming all over the attraction - a must-see for mainland visitors.

There have been complaints from the locals about having to queue "forever" in order to enter the museum because of the thousands of mainlanders visiting each day. These visitors have been criticised for chatting loudly and eating snacks inside.

There have also been complaints from locals over crowded conditions at the landmark Taipei 101 building and many other scenic spots, including Sun Moon Lake in central Taiwan, with residents saying it is causing a major inconvenience.

The increases in visitor quotas are part of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's policy of engaging Beijing, for long a bitter rival of Taipei following the end of the civil war in 1949. After becoming the island's leader in 2008, Ma sought to improve ties with the mainland and it is now the island's largest source of trade and tourism revenue. Since July 2008, more than 4.83 million mainland tourists have visited Taiwan, spending more than NT$243.3 billion (HK$63.5 billion), the council said.

Wu said that on top of existing measures to regulate the flow of tourists, the council was discussing with agencies, including the transport ministry and tourism bureau, other ways to reduce disorder and inconveniences caused by the influx.

She said relevant agencies would also work to head off cut-throat competition by local or mainland tour operators in order to ensure the quality of tours.

Wu said the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association and its mainland counterpart, which deal with cross-strait tourism issues, held discussions from time to time on how to improve tour quality.