Taiwanese officials expect 1 million tourists from mainland China to visit the island this year as “stabilising” coronavirus infections should allow group travel to resume after a three-year hiatus, the Tourism Bureau in Taipei told the Post. A resumption of travel stands to lift the tourism sector in Taiwan, which saw strong business from 2008 during a thaw in cross-Strait relations, and could rekindle a deeper level of contact between common people. Taiwan barred group travel from much of the world, including mainland China, in March 2020 amid surging coronavirus infections. “Presently, the Central Epidemic Command Centre policy still hasn’t opened to mainland travel in Taiwan, but the possibility of that policy opening to mainland travel is quite high as the mainland pandemic stabilises in the future and airports that are open to direct flights gradually come back online,” the bureau said on Thursday. ‘Willing to spend’: Taiwan tourism sector misses mainlanders as ban persists Mainland China has said its coronavirus deaths and severe infections have dropped by 90 per cent drop since peaking last month. Taiwan anticipates receiving 6 million tourists from around the world this year, the bureau said. The bureau’s 1 million estimate is based on the percentage of mainland Chinese among the 11.86 million trips from abroad in 2019. That year, 23 per cent of the total came from mainland China, or 2.73 million. The National Palace Museum, the Sun Moon Lake mountain resort and other scenic landmarks around the island had previously been popular with mainland travellers. In 2015, Taiwan logged a record 4.1 million arrivals from the mainland. If this is something that’s actually happening, then it’s good for the industry Hiro Liao, Skal International Taipei “Normal exchanges and business activity have faced a big impact,” said Zhao Xijun, associate dean of the School of Finance at Renmin University in Beijing. “Now, since the pandemic, contact is starting to come back, and Taiwan was a major destination for mainland citizens because the two sides had been separated for so long before .” Shops and hotels in Taiwan have said mainland Chinese visitors tend to spend more lavishly than people from other parts of the world. Around 9,500 tour guides, 3,400 hotels and 2,800 travel agencies operate in Taiwan, and many lost business during the pandemic before the island began reopening to overseas arrivals in October. “It’s always difficult for [mainland Chinese] to come to Taiwan, so they want to make the most of it,” said Hiro Liao, president of the Skal International Taipei tourism association. “If this is something that’s actually happening, then it’s good for the industry,” Liao added, referring to the prospect of 1 million mainland tourists this year. Tourism in China bounces back during Lunar New Year Taiwan’s chief international airport alone stands to gain from an influx of travel from mainland China, Fitch Ratings said on Wednesday. Taoyuan International Airport handled around three-quarters of travel between Taiwan and mainland China before 2020, Fitch said, with mainland China making up 17 per cent of the total traffic. “The easing of the border for the world’s second-largest economy brightens the outlook further for international air traffic, which consequently benefits Taiwan’s international airports facilitating cross-strait lines,” Fitch said. On Wednesday, Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office called for a resumption of direct flights from Taiwan to the mainland airports that had accepted them before the pandemic. Taiwan halted direct flights to 12 of the 16 eligible mainland Chinese airports in 2020 when it suspended group tours. Beijing Capital, Shanghai Pudong, Xiamen Gaoqi and Chengdu Shuangliu international airports are the only ones still open to direct flights from Taiwan. Mainland Chinese authorities are pushing for the “normal operation” of two-way air routes through a recently approved “legal mechanism”, the Tourism Bureau statement said. The mainland side has suggested that “priority be given to the restoration of multiple cross-strait direct-flight destinations”, the statement explained. It cited the major southern city of Guangzhou as one of the priority destinations. Taiwanese tourism operators are already “making full preparations” for a resumption of mainland Chinese travel, the Tourism Bureau statement said. “Before the resumption of normal cross-strait travel, we will continue to cooperate proactively with key mainland group travel agencies and arrange for all types of theme travel and high-end options,” it said.