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Follow up on Chinese tourists in Taiwan

05/08/2008

 

In early July, the first direct flight between China and Taiwan received huge publicity. The Western media seemed rather excited about the ‘historical moment’ and ‘landmark’. Reporters and some experts claimed that Taiwan had not been able to benefit from China’s economic growth due to the lack of direct flights between the two countries and the direct flights would now help bring in Chinese tourists and boost the Taiwanese economy. In fact, the current president, Mr. Ma promised during his election campaign and now still insists that it would bring in up to 3,000 tourists everyday and every tourist would spend US$1857 on average. This figure was reported as ‘a conservative estimate’. The Head of National Tourism Administration of the Chinese Government, Shao, Qi-Wei, also said ‘there are 50,000,000 Chinese who wish to visit Taiwan’. However, one month on, it has probably cost Taiwan a lot more than it brought in.

 

Since 4th July, there have been, on average, only 173 Chinese tourists every day, which is far from the ceiling of 3,000 reported everywhere in the world. There are only 45 people on 5th August; 65 on 6th, 55 on 7th and 316 on 8th. Their average spending has been between US$670 and US$1300, which is much less than the ‘conservatively estimated’ $1857. The average number of tourists presented here is even less than when DPP was in power. Calculating from figures published by Tourism Bureau of Taiwan, there were 270 per day in 2006 and 224 per day in 2007. Please note that in the past few years, Chinese tourists were only allowed to visit Taiwan after they had visited a 3rd country and yet the number reduced AFTER they could fly directly to Taiwan?!!

 

Due to concerns over the impact of our government’s rushing to bring in Chinese tourists on our national security, public health and illegal immigration, a lot of Taiwanese probably feel relieved by the small number of Chinese tourists and would rather the increase be gradual. Some people are simply indifferent and definitely not as excited as portrayed by the media.

 

In terms of economy, a lot of business owners, such as hoteliers, restaurant owners, craft shops etc., have acted upon the government’s announcements and the world’s optimism of the Chinese economy by investing in facilities for the Chinese tourists. Now, they are making a huge loss due to the lack/absence of visitors. What makes it worse is that the prospect of crowding with Chinese tourists has put off our biggest visitor group, the Japanese. Indeed, the Expedia survey found that Japanese tourists were rated the best travellers whereas the Chinese were one of the least favourites. So Taiwan is not only NOT profiting from Chinese tourists but also losing revenues from our most friendly visitor group and has our gate wide open to a country eager to take over or invade us.

 

Some may argue that this was due to the Olympics in Beijing. However, the number of Chinese mainland tourists going to Hong Kong and Macau has not reduced. This means the Chinese Government is still keeping a tight lid on the number of tourists visiting Taiwan. Indeed, the Chinese Government only allows 33 travel agencies in 13 provinces handling applications for travelling to Taiwan. In other words, it is mostly up to China. Critics suspect that China would use this to push Ma to give up more Taiwanese sovereignty because they know Ma has not fulfilled any other campaign promises and is eager to make this one happen.

 

People have always believed that China likes our current president, Mr. Ma, and the ruling party, KMT but China is certainly not treating Ma better. If anything, it is worse.

 

When DPP was in power, they spent years negotiating a package deal of direct passenger flights, cargo flights plus tourism. Because the Chinese Government was not willing to give DPP the credit, they delayed signing it until after the election so that they could sign it with KMT if KMT won. KMT was eager to get the direct flights off the ground on a date that Ma promised during his election campaign, so they gave up the cargo flights.

 

I really believe that China wants Ma in power because Ma is a pushover and KMT usually places their personal interest above that of our country and therefore can be easily ‘influenced’. In fact, during the talk on direct flights and tourism, it was revealed that one of the members in the negotiation team, Kao, Kong-Lien, has been made an official in a government department by the Chinese Government. The magazine also reported that the Chinese Government had bought a modern and well situated department for his father to replace their much less well situated house. Kao denied all allegations, of course. Talk about conflict of interest, eh?

 

China has kept pushing boundaries with Taiwan since Ma took office, such as trying to call us ‘China, Taipei’ and put Taiwan under ‘C’ rather than ‘T’ for the 2008 Olympics. This has clearly violated the agreed official IOC protocol. Apparently, showing goodwill by giving in on some of the sovereignty issues has not made China treat Taiwan any better. Then, no one should blame DPP for standing firm on sovereignty issues and speaking out for Taiwan. China’s intention to take over Taiwan has never changed. They put on a good front for the world but in reality, things are never what they seem.

 

Therefore, Taiwanese people are anxious or even angry at Ma’s policy on China along with other ineffective and unwise handlings of the country’s economy. His support has now reached a record low of 27% and dissatisfaction rating has hit 60%. Bear in mind that he’s only been in office for less than 3 months. The former President Chen needed 6 years to achieve such a low rating whereas Ma did it in less than 100 days.


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