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Industry urges Taiwan, China to simplify travel documents

Industry urges Taiwan, China to simplify travel documents

Taipei, Jan. 22 (CNA) Taiwan and China should simplify the application processes for travel documents so that a program allowing Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan independently can work more effectively, tourism insiders said Tuesday. "Many Chinese tourists have been discouraged from traveling to Taiwan due to the troublesome travel application procedure," said Yao Ta-kuang, chairman of the Taipei-based Travel Agent Association of the Republic of China. Yao suggested that Chinese tourists should be allowed to apply for entry permits in China prior to traveling to Taiwan instead of the documents having to pass through the hands of Taiwanese travel agencies to immigration authorities, which translates into time and money for applicants. He said a more convenient channel could be built under the much-anticipated establishment of reciprocal offices of the Taipei-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) on either side of the Taiwan Strait. The opening of SEF-ARATS offices, which is in line with President Ma Ying-jeou's China policy, is being discussed between both sides. The free independent traveler program currently allows people from the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen, Tianjin, Chongqing, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Jinan, Xian, Fuzhou and Shenzhen to visit Taiwan without having to be part of a tour group or be accompanied by a tour guide. The program, which kicked of in June 2011, allows a maximum of 1,000 people per day to enter Taiwan. According to the National Immigration Agency, however, just 162,798 independent Chinese tourists visited Taiwan in the first 11 months of 2012, or 487 people per day. (By Lee Hsin-Yin)