Taiwan doubles quota for solo Chinese tourists

Taiwan will double its quota of independent Chinese tourists to allow up to 1,000 visitors a day, the government announced, less than a year after lifting a ban on solo travel from the mainland.

The move, effective from April 28, will help promote friendship and tourism, the Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement, adding that it "to some extent, will also help stabilise and facilitate ties between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits".

Travel between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland stopped at the end of a civil war in 1949. But the ban on solo Chinese travellers was lifted in June last year in a sign of warming ties between the two bitter rivals.

Previously, mainland tourists had only been allowed to visit Taiwan as part of official tour groups amid fears the Chinese might overstay their visas to work illegally on the island.

Government tallies indicate that as of March 26, more than 56,000 Chinese have visited Taiwan as individual tourists since the ban was lifted.

While currently only people from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen are allowed to visit, under the new measures independent travellers from six more cities will be admitted, with another four cities to e added to the list later in the year.

Travel between the two sides has boomed since President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan's China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in 2008, pledging to boost trade links and tourism.

In 2011, more than 1.78 million Chinese visited Taiwan -- most of them on organised group tours, the rest on business, family and study trips -- a rise of 9.4 percent from a year before, making China the biggest source of visitors to the island, according to the Tourism Bureau.

Beijing still regards Taiwan part of its territory awaiting to reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island has ruled itself for more than six decades.

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