Asia Minute: Taiwan Off Limits to Solo Chinese Travelers

Aug 1, 2019

For many people, August is a time for vacation and for travel. But for many residents of China, those travel options have been reduced effective today.

People in nearly four dozen cities across China will no longer be allowed to visit Taiwan by themselves. China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism posted online that “in view of the current cross-strait situation, such visits will be temporarily restricted until further notice.”

In other words, political tensions are still high between Beijing and Taipei.

One likely target: Taiwan’s presidential election in January. The South China Morning Post quotes an official of Taiwan’s Travel Agent Association as saying if the suspension lasts until the election, it could mean a loss of 700,000 visitors — at a cost of some 900 million U.S. dollars.

Taiwan government statistics show travelers from mainland China make up nearly a third of visitor arrivals to the island. More than half of those visitors from China come on their own, and they spend more than their counterparts who come in groups.

The whole idea of individual travel to Taiwan is relatively new for Chinese residents. The program started in three cities in 2011, and has grown to a total of 47. It was designed to establish closer ties between China and Taiwan — but those ties have frayed over the last couple of years and more sharply so in recent months.

President Tsai Ing-wen has taken a tougher attitude to Beijing – an approach that’s a key theme for her re-election campaign.