Despite the lack of a formal response from the Taiwan authority to the mainland's removal of a travel ban on Friday, many mainland travel agencies are eager for potential business opportunities.
Hu Shuwei, marketing director of the CTS (Hong Kong) International Travel Agency, has received hundreds of calls over the past three days requesting information about a Taiwan tour.
"These eager citizens called in to ask for a detailed itinerary, prices or a timetable," Hu said.
Zhou Feng, a 62-year-old native of Beijing, called visiting Taiwan "his lifelong dream."
Yang, a 39-year-old fan of Taiwan pop singer Teresa Teng, wished to pay homage to Teng's tomb in Junyuan Garden in Jinshan Village of Taipei County.
Many mainland travel agencies have started to make preparations for tour packages ranging from five to 10 days.
In Guangdong Province, some agencies already began booking services as the Taiwan authority imposed a ceiling of accepting only 1,000 mainland travelers per day.
Although Taiwan is only about 150 kilometers away from the mainland, travelers in Beijing have to stop over in Hong Kong first before flying to Taipei and spend at least 6,000 yuan (US$725) for a round-trip ticket.
Analysts say after Taiwan is formally opened to mainland tourists, cross-Straits passenger traffic may skyrocket and facilitate the realization of direct flights between Taiwan and the mainland.
To attract as many as travelers possible, agencies in Xiamen, a coastal city of Fujian Province, is promoting a boat tour to the Jinmen Islands, which they say costs less than flying.
In Shanghai, thirty local travel agencies have been invited by a Taiwan tourism foundation for a weeklong market survey tour of the island scheduled in June.
Some Taiwan analysts say that mainland travelers may create a daily tourism market worth 10 billion yuan (US$1.21 billion), if they each spend 1,000 yuan a day.
The China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) announced on Friday three principles on opening tourism for mainland residents to Taiwan, saying that mainland travel operators would closely coordinate with their counterparts in Taiwan and control travelers' flow by taking into consideration accommodation capability and other conditions.
According to the CNTA, about 30,000 mainland residents visited Taiwan for various exchange programs in 2004, up 25 percent from the previous year.
The number of Taiwan visitors to the mainland reached 3.68 million last year for family reunions, tourism, business, academic study and other purposes, an increase of 35 percent year on year.
The mainland has received 33.87 million travelers from Taiwan since 1987, when the two sides resumed exchanges after a 38-year-old standoff, representing an annual average increase of 17 percent over the past 17 years.
According to China Daily some 400 overseas Chinese gathered in Xiamen on Monday and composed an open letter to their Taiwan compatriots expressing their wish for early reunification.
(Xinhua News Agency May 24, 2005)