Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Chinese Tourists - Good or Bad for Taiwan?

A few days ago I was walking from Taipei Main Station towards Gongguan, when I bumped into a big crowd at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Dozens of people were gathered around something which I at first couldn't see. I decided to stop for a while and take a closer look. 

I noticed that many people were taking pictures of two guards that were standing by a flagpole. Guards - I don't know if they are actual soldiers - are regularly stationed at the mausoleum of the former President of the Republic of China and perform daily ceremonies that have become major tourist attractions, as has the building itself, which is one of Taipei's most important landmarks. 

As I soon realised, a flag lowering ceremony was to be performed. The national anthem of the Republic of China was played. Then, the guards began the flag lowering ritual. While I was watching and taking pictures, I found that many, if not most people around me were mainland Chinese (I could tell from their accent). 

The number of mainland visitors in Taiwan has been growing steadily over the past few years, after the 2008 elected Guomindang government liberalised cross-strait tourism. Last year, 3 million Chinese tourists visited Taiwan - a third of the total number of tourists. Between January and July of this year, 1.88 million mainlanders came to the island. While in the past tourists from the mainland were allowed to visit only as members of groups, at the end of June of this year individual travellers from selected Chinese cities have been permitted to visit Taiwan. The number of individual tourists has reached 625,000 in the first seven months of the year.

But is it a good thing for Taiwan?