Hong Kong, March 1 (CNA) Taiwan is seeking to attract more visitors from Macau by introducing a series of measures that make travel to the island easier, according to Taiwanese officials based in the territory.
Lu Chang-shui (盧長水), head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Macau, said at an event promoting Taiwan tourism that since Feb. 8, permanent residents of Macau who were not born there have been able to apply for travel permits to Taiwan through an online application system.
Previously, only residents born in the special administrative region of China were able to apply for travel permits through the online system.
In addition, Chinese citizens who have worked in Macau for at least one year or who study at universities in Macau will be allowed to apply for travel permits through the online system starting on March 28, which will reduce the time needed to acquire a travel permit, he said.
The online system will shorten the time it takes to process a travel permit from two to three weeks for a paper application to five workdays, Lu said.
His remarks came in the wake of recent growth in tourism between Taiwan and Macau.
In 2016, Macau received about 1.07 million visitor arrivals from Taiwan, an 8.8 percent year-on-year increase, making Taiwan its third largest source of foreign visitors, Lu said.
Meanwhile, about 140,000 tourists from Macau visited Taiwan in 2016, up 10 percent from the previous year, he said.
By introducing a series of tourism promotions and measures to streamline visa procedures, Taiwan is seeking to attract foreign visitors from a wider range of countries, with a particular focus on Southeast Asia, amid a decline in Chinese tourists.
Taiwan had 10.69 million foreign visitor arrivals in 2016, a 2.4 percent year-on-year increase from the previous year, according to government statistics.
Despite a 16.1 percent decrease from 2015, Chinese visitors remained the largest source of foreign visitors to Taiwan in 2016. A total of 3.51 million Chinese nationals visited Taiwan last year, representing 32.9 percent of all foreign visitor arrivals.
The drop in Chinese visitors came amid strained relations between Taiwan and mainland China.
Cross-strait relations have cooled since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016, mainly due to her refusal to accept Beijing's call to recognize the "1992 consensus" as the sole foundation for cross-strait exchanges.
The consensus refers to a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between China and Taiwan, which then had a Kuomintang government, that there is only one China, with both sides free to interpret what that means.
(By Stanley Cheung and Elaine Hou)