Taiwan Stops New Group Trips to China amid Tourism, Air Route Spat

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
Chinese and Taiwanese flags are seen in this illustration, August 6, 2022.

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan told its travel agents on Wednesday to stop organizing new group tours to China since Beijing has yet to allow such trips to the island by Chinese tourists and has altered a flight path in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

Post pandemic, China has largely resumed permission for its nationals to visit a host of popular tourist destinations including Japan, but has yet to add Taiwan back on its approved list amid ongoing tensions between Beijing and Taipei.

China claims democratically-governed Taiwan as its own territory despite the strong objections of the government in Taipei.

Taiwan had planned to resume group tours for Taiwanese to China from March 1 after they were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the tourism authority said those already organized from that date to May 31 could go ahead.

But “considering the change in the situation,” including China not allowing Chinese to visit Taiwan and China’s altering of a flight route through the Taiwan Strait last week, Taiwanese travel agencies cannot arrange any more tours, the Tourism Administration said in a statement.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, responding to the tour move, said Taiwan was “blowing hot and cold” in having previously said it wanted such tours to resume, and then stopping them.

“This will only make the Taiwanese people and the tourism industry once again be dissatisfied with the political manipulation of tourism by the Democratic Progressive Party authorities,” it said, referring to the ruling party.

Taiwan’s government expressed anger after China “unilaterally” changed the flight path close to the strait’s median line, saying it appeared to be a deliberate attempt to change the status quo for possible military means.

China has downplayed the furore, saying it is a routine measure to alleviate air space pressure.

Taiwanese are still able to visit China on individual trips, while Chinese who live in third countries have since last September been allowed to come to Taiwan again as tourists.