BEIJING, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Taiwan residents holding legal passes for cross-Straits travel were allowed as of Thursday to take direct sea voyages between Kinmen and Matsu islands and the mainland, Taiwan media reports said on Thursday.
Taiwan authorities lifted the ban in Taipei on Thursday. Previously, only Kinmen and Matsu residents were allowed to sail directly between those two points and the mainland.
According to the reports, airport and harbor facilities in those two parts of Taiwan will be improved based on the new policy.
Direct sailings started in January 2001. Three regular passenger routes operate between Kinmen, the Matsu group and three mainland ports: Xiamen, Mawei and Quanzhou in the coastal Fujian Province.
An occasional route links Kinmen with Meizhou, a popular religious site that is also in Fujian.
The cost of cross-Straits travel will drop considerably if passengers fly to Kinmen or the Matsu group and sail to the mainland, travel analysts said. They expected passenger numbers to increase about 20 percent during the next month with the new policy.
They also suggested that efforts be made to attract mainland tourists to Kinmen and Matsu and develop the two locations into trans-shipment facilities for cross-Straits cargoes.
Kinmen island is about 33 km from Xiamen City and 296 km from Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.
Matsu is a group of 36 isles about 28 km from the Fujian coast and 211 km from the main Taiwan island.