Published on : Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Over the Lunar New Year break, around six million Chinese tourists are expected to travel abroad in the period between January 27 to February 2. Many tour agency operators are relying on mainland visitors for lucrative revenue. However, not all are hoping high this year, after number of mainland tourists fell 36% since President Tsai Ing-wen took power in May. Though Tsai says Taiwan wants peace with China, Beijing suspects she seeks formal independence.
To quote Li Chi-yueh, owner of Taipei-based Chung Shin Travel Service, who has been representing Taiwan’s tour operators to lobby Tsai to improve ties with Beijing, “China uses its sightseeing tourists as a diplomatic weapon. There’s a lot of concern that the industry won’t survive if we carry on like this.”
This worry is, however, not limited to Taiwan. Tour operators and government officials in Asia say they apprehend that China is using its increasingly high-spending tourists as a lever to pressure or reward its neighbors. A South Korea government official said that Chinese and Korean tour companies had told him that the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) had instructed Chinese agencies to slash tours to South Korea by at least 20% between November and February.
The official calculated that thousands of potential travelers were lost after eight applications to add charter flights between the countries in January and February were rejected without explanation. Chinese companies told him the measure was intended to slash an excessive number of low-quality, low-priced tours for Chinese tourists visiting Korea, the official said.