A senior mainland official has called for further cross-strait tourism co-operation, as the first batch of mainland tourists leaves Taiwan following their landmark visit. 'I feel there is much more room for cross-strait co-operation in developing tourism,' Shao Qiwei , director of the China National Tourism Administration, said before leaving yesterday following an eight-day visit. Mr Shao led a 31-member delegation to Taiwan along with 662 mainland tourists and 60 journalists last Friday. They became the first group of mainlanders in more than 50 years to travel to Taiwan directly to take in the sights, in what was a major breakthrough in relations. Mr Shao said the island's tourism resources were much richer than he had expected because he could visit both mountain and coastal attractions in just a day. Convenient transport - including the high-speed railway between Taipei and Kaohsiung - helped to add to this advantage, he said. Mr Shao said he found preparations made by the island's tourism operators to deal with the new business were good, leaving a good impression with the visitors. The two sides signed a historic deal on June 13 to operate direct weekend charter flights and open the island to 3,000 mainland tourists a day. Taiwan had banned direct contact with the mainland since 1949. About 20 more mainland tour groups, on a 10-day visit, will leave the island tomorrow. The next batch of mainland tourists will arrive in Taiwan next Friday. Li Jingwen , chief of the exchange bureau of the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, who travelled with Mr Shao for the visit - said he believed at least 600 to 700 tourists should be able to visit the island on Friday.