BEIJING, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Residents in seven cities in the Chinese mainland on Wednesday were given official permission to apply to travel to Taiwan as individuals under a cross-Strait agreement, bringing the total such mainland cities to 26.
The newly added cities include Shijiazhuang, Changchun, Hefei, Changsha, Nanning, Kunming and Quanzhou.
The 26 cities have a total registered population of 200 million and many of them play important role in the mainland's economic development, which could fuel growth of tourism to the island.
The ban on traveling to the island was lifted by Taiwanese authorities in July 2008. Mainland visitors at that time could only travel to Taiwan as part of tightly-run tour groups, business trips, academic visits and trips related to family affairs.
On June 28, 2011, Taiwan opened its doors to independent tourists from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen.
Official figures show that individual trips to the island are a new growth point in cross-Strait tourism.
About 950,000 mainland residents had traveled to the island as of May this year, up 12 percent year-on-year. Among them, 170,000 travelled individually, up 237 percent.
Mainland tourists brought to Taiwan about 202.3 billion new Taiwan Dollars (around 6.75 billion U.S. dollars) in the four years till 2012.
The mainland is currently the largest source of tourists to the island, with mainland tourists accounting for 30 percent of the total.