Taipei, Feb. 22 (CNA) Tourist arrivals from China are likely to decline by 1.5 million this year, compared with a drop of 670,000 in 2016, Lai Cheng-yi (賴正鎰), director-general of the General Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday.
"Taiwan's tourism industry has been affected by the drop" in visitor arrivals from China, he said, suggesting that the Taiwan government take stronger action to boost tourism.
For example, the Tourism Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications should be upgraded to a Cabinet-level agency, said Lai, who is also chairman of the Taiwan Hotel Association.
According to Lai, visitor arrivals to Taiwan rose by an annual 2.4 percent last year to 10.69 million.
However, that was negligible growth compared with Japan's 21.8 percent and South Korea's 29.3 percent, Lai said.
Already this year, total visitor arrivals to Taiwan from China have been dropping, recording a 38 percent year-on-year decline for the month of January to 187,000, he said.
The number of Chinese visitors traveling in groups fell 58 percent to 60,000 in January, Lai said.
Based on the data for the month of January, visitor arrivals from China for the whole of 2017 are expected to fall by 1.5 million, he said.
Since Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office last May, China has been cutting back on the number of tourists allowed to visit Taiwan.
Relations between the two sides have cooled mainly due to Tsai's refusal to heed Beijing's calls to recognize the "1992 consensus" as the sole political foundation for cross-strait exchanges.
The "1992 consensus" refers to a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between China and Taiwan, which was then under a Kuomintang government, that there is only one China, with both sides free to interpret what that means.
Meanwhile, Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), the new chairwoman of the Taiwan Visitors Association, expressed on Feb. 19 her wish to pay a visit to the Taipei office of China's Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Straits. The latter has so far not responded.
(By Chen Ting-wei, Lawrence Chiu and Elizabeth Hsu)