This year’s Cross-Strait Taipei Travel Fair, an annual event hosted as part of the Taipei International Travel Fair, has been canceled. The event, which invites Chinese and Taiwanese tour operators to promote travel across the Taiwan Strait, is the latest casualty in China’s campaign to limit Chinese visits to Taiwan.
Since the inauguration of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, Chinese visits to Taiwan have dropped significantly—primarily due to new limits imposed on tour groups. While Taiwanese and international media have widely reported that the drop in Chinese tourists is a result of Beijing’s intervention in the tourism industry, Chinese officials have rejected such reports as mere speculation. Official sources in China argue that faltering arrivals is caused by changing “market behavior,” and that the independence-leaning government in Taiwan serves as a deterrent to Chinese tourists.
Until this year, the Cross-Strait Taipei Travel Fair has been hailed on both sides of the Taiwan Strait as an important step to promote travel and cultural exchange—often highlighted in Chinese media as a testament to warming relations and a common destiny for both sides of the strait. Since the inaugural event in 2006, attendance and cross-strait travel surged to reach a peak in 2015.
While the event has been organized in conjunction with the Taipei International Travel Fair, it was a separate event jointly organized by the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) and Taiwan Visitors Association (TVA)—both quasi-governmental organizations. According to TVA, CNTA failed to deliver an official reply to this year’s invitation, causing preparatory work to stall. A first preparatory meeting was held in July after a long delay but left both sides with “many unsettled issues” according to media reports at the time. While the idea of inviting Chinese tour operators independently of CNTA was considered to keep the fair alive, the fair was ultimately canceled—leaving the Taipei International Travel Fair as the only venue for promotion of travel across both sides of the strait.
According to TVA secretary-general Wu Chao-yen, TVA will still extend invitations to Chinese tour operators for next year’s supposed installment of the Cross-Strait Taipei Travel Fair, but it remains unclear if this will be done independently of CNTA, which has been the Chinese co-organizer of the fair since its inauguration.
The drop in the number of Chinese tourists who visit Taiwan has predominantly affected group tours, with independent travel from China still retaining momentum—similar to how Chinese tourism to South Korea has developed after China’s quasi-travel ban. While Beijing’s efforts to curb tourism flows by “guiding” tour operators have certainly proven effective, the decline in tour group travelers is also part of the ongoing shift in global Chinese travel toward independent and “authentic” travel.
The fate of the Cross-Strait Taipei Travel Fair remains unclear, but as with most destinations, the future of Chinese travel to Taiwan likely lies in independent travel rather than group travel sanctioned by government authorities.
Meanwhile, Taiwan will still attend the CNTA’s China International Travel Mart in Yunnan next month.
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