Taipei (Taiwan): Taiwan's Tourism Administration announced on Wednesday its decision to uphold a three-year ban on Taiwanese tour groups travelling to China, citing Beijing's failure to reciprocate by sending Chinese group tourists as reported by Central News Agency Taiwan.
"The original plan will no longer proceed considering changes in the current situation and factors such as travel safety for Taiwanese nationals," stated the administration in a release.
This decision marks a departure from the November 2023 resolution, which allowed local travel agencies to begin arranging trip schedules for tour groups to China starting March 1, 2024, as reported by Central News Agency.
Originally, Transportation Minister Wang Kwo-tsai had announced during a November plenary session of the Legislature that the Cabinet would lift cross-strait travel restrictions by the Lunar New Year, to take effect in March.
According to Central News Agency, the government's decision to permit Taiwanese tour groups to visit China would also entail the reopening of Taiwan's borders to tour groups from China, added Wang.
Wang's statements represented a shift in the government's stance expressed in May 2023 and a statement by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan's top government agency overseeing cross-Taiwan Strait affairs, in late August.
On May 19, when Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, announced that Chinese travel agencies could resume business involving receiving Taiwanese group tourists immediately, Taipei did not respond positively.
Instead, then Tourism Bureau chief Chang Shi-chung stated that regulations on group travel should be negotiated through existing channels--the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Tourism Exchange Across the Taiwan Straits--although Taiwan welcomed China's announcement.
The Tourism Administration stated on Wednesday that the planned policy had to be canceled because "the time is not yet right to resume our travel agency's group tours to China."
The administration cited China's reluctance to proceed with the reciprocal arrangement and expressed concerns about flight safety due to China's recent unilateral adjustment of its flight path close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait.
China terminated an "offset measure" for the southbound operation of the M503 flight path, which is west of the median line of the Taiwan Strait, on February 1, and initiated eastbound operation of routes W122 and W123, connecting M503 with Fuzhou and Xiamen cities in Fujian Province.