Taiwan has enjoyed a surge in visitors from the mainland, boosting the island’s tourism industry and the airlines that serve it, under the shadow of the street protests in Hong Kong.
The number of mainlanders visiting the island soared more than 70 percent over the week-long National Day break from a year earlier. Hong Kong, beset by the impact from the Occupy Central protests, managed only a 6.8 percent boost in numbers from across the border, a sharp drop from the 14.5 percent rise last year, immigration figures show.
Almost 75,000 mainlanders visited Taiwan during the week, one of the two so-called “golden weeks” for mainland tourists, with the number of individual travellers rising 89 percent to 44,690, the China National Tourism Administration said.
As much as 95 per cent of available seats on Taiwan-bound flights were filled on the first day of the holiday week, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said on its website, adding that international travel in general was gaining popularity.
China Southern Airlines said it carried a record 1.65 million passengers on 11,000 flights during the holiday week and increased capacity on international routes by 21 percent. “More than 220,000 passengers were carried on international routes, up 20 per cent, while domestic traffic only grew 4 percent,” the carrier said.
The CAAC said more than eight million people flew on 79,000 flights during the week, up from 7.7 million and 76,000 flights a year ago.
Taiwan is fast emerging as a new favourite for mainland visitors as travel restrictions are being lifted. Scheduled direct flights across the strait began only in late 2008 and individual travel schemes – enabling mainland residents of select cities to visit without tour groups, albeit with lengthy visa requirements – were introduced in 2011.