by Xinhua writer Ming Jinwei
TAIPEI, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Millions of tourists from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan are making cross-Strait tours every year, bringing huge benefits to both economies and helping reduce misunderstandings.
A cross-Strait travel fair kicked off in Taipei on Friday, offering the mainland and Taiwan an opportunity to showcase tourist attractions and market their tourism products.
A total of 368 promotion booths have been set up at the travel fair, with 235 from the mainland and 133 from Taiwan.
FAST GROWING TOURISM
The past four years have seen relations between the mainland and Taiwan improve significantly, which helps build cross-Strait tourism into a booming and lucrative business.
Taiwan first allowed mainland tourists to visit the island in groups in July 2008. The first group of individual mainland tourists started to come to Taiwan after June 2011.
Cross-Strait travel, especially the tourism industry in Taiwan, has seen the benefits.
According to figures provided by the mainland-based Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Straits, Taiwanese tourists made a total of 4.01 million visits to the mainland in the first nine months of the year, marking a 0.74-percent year-on-year growth.
Meanwhile, mainland tourists made 1.46 million visits to Taiwan in the January-September this year, surging 73.6 percent.
So far citizens in all 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions on the mainland have been allowed to travel to Taiwan in groups. The number of mainland travel agencies permitted to organize such groups has increased to 216.
In addition, citizens in 13 mainland cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Jinan, can travel individually to the island.
The number of weekly fights between the mainland and Taiwan has risen to 558.
Taiwan's economy has been under great stress as demand for its exports has been dampened amid a stalled U.S. economic recovery and the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis. Tourism is helping it get a much-needed stimulus as millions of mainland tourists visit the island, spending billions of New Taiwanese dollars on accommodation, transportation and local products.
The mainland and Taiwan have become an important source of tourists for each other in the past few years and booming cross-Strait tourism has brought benefits to both sides.
Figures released earlier this month by the Taiwan authorities showed that a total of 4.28 million mainland tourists had visited the island by the end of August, creating revenues of 216.7 billion New Taiwanese dollars (about 7.41 billion U.S. dollars).
Meanwhile, the Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Straits said tourists from Taiwan spent a total of 5.985 billion U.S. dollars in the mainland in 2011. In the first nine months of this year, the amount stood at 4.541 billion U.S. dollars.
As citizens in the mainland become more affluent, the number of tourists visiting Taiwan is more likely to increase in the future.
Liu Wen-yi, general manager of Taiwan's LionTravel, said the mainland tourism market has been growing fast and all tours offered by his company are attracting a lot of consumers from Taiwan.
At the travel fair, delegations from the mainland and Taiwan are having a different focus while marketing their tourism products.
For mainland exhibitors, they are working hard to promote famous tourist attractions in their home region.
Zhang Kun, a worker with the tourism promoting agency in the Hubei Province on the mainland, said Hubei has been working with a major travel agency in Taiwan to market two eight-day tours around the province.
The Hubei booth features tours in the metropolitan city of Wuhan and other historic cities of Yichang, Jingzhou and Xiangyang. It also markets other cultural tours to Hubei, including ones to the Wudang Mountain, a world-renown Taoist religious site.
For representatives from far west Xinjiang on the mainland, they try to make their breathtaking terrain, such as deserts and grasslands, more familiar to the consumers in Taiwan.
But Taiwan's delegation takes a different approach. The island has a very sophisticated tourism market and the delegation not only consists of representatives of travel agencies, but also brings together owners of leisure farms, theme parks and duty-free shops.
Chang Chia-juch, chairman of the Taiwan Visitors Association, said Taiwan has been planning new tours to both old and newly designed tourist attractions, citing as examples bicycle tours around Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County in central Taiwan and visits to ethnic minority groups in east Taiwan.
If the current trend continues, more mainland tourists are expected to visit Taiwan in the coming years and the number of tourists from Taiwan visiting the mainland will remain at high levels. It is a phenomenon that will not only bring economic benefits to both sides, but also contribute to overall peace and prosperity across the Taiwan Strait.