China to stop issuing licenses to tour guides for Taiwan: reports

Chinese tour groups could dry up by end of year

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Tourists at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei.

Tourists at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei. (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – China is stopping with the issuing of licenses to tour guides taking groups to Taiwan in what is seen as the latest move by the communist country against its democratic neighbor, the Apple Daily reported Friday.

Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016, China halted direct talks and limited the number of Chinese tourists allowed to visit Taiwan, even though tourism from other sources has surged.

The latest measure would lead to an almost complete drying up of Chinese tour groups by the end of this year or early in 2019, Taiwanese tour operators told the Apple Daily.

Only about 10 percent of licenses issued to Chinese tour guides for Taiwan were still valid, meaning that there would be a shortage of guides quite soon. The new policy would not affect individual travelers, but China only allows the residents of a limited number of cities and provinces to travel to Taiwan on their own.

In March, local authorities in China reportedly ordered a halt in the issuing of exit permits for tour groups to Taiwan, and then cut the regular quota by half for the period from April to September, according to the Apple Daily. The maximum number of tour participants for that period would amount to 311,000.

From November to December, exit permits would not be issued again, possibly due to the timing of regional and local elections in Taiwan on November 24, the Apple Daily reported.

According to data from travel associations, before last month’s Lunar New Year holidays, each day would see 4,500 Chinese tour group members and 4,000 individual travelers arrive in Taiwan, but after the holidays the total figure fell to 6,500, about 2,000 of whom came with groups.

Asked about the reports at the Legislative Yuan Friday, Premier William Lai (賴清德) contrasted the news with the so-called 31 measures favoring Taiwan (惠台) recently announced by China. He said that if the news about the tour guide licenses was true, one could describe the measure as “harming Taiwan (害台).”

Lai pointed out that even though the number of visitors from China had fallen by half over the past year, the total number of foreign tourists had stayed around 10 million a year due to government promotion campaigns targeting visitors from Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia.