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More tourists encouraged to visit Taiwan
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The Chinese mainland promised on Wednesday to take measures to increase the number of tourists visiting Taiwan.

State Council Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Li Weiyi said the measures would include beefing up tourism promotion and streamlining travel procedures.

Since its launch in July, the much-anticipated cross-Straits travel market had developed steadily and smoothly on the whole, Li told a press conference.

Under an agreement signed by the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation on June 13, mainland tourists were permitted to visit Taiwan via weekend charter flights starting in July.

More than 8,000 mainland residents visited the island during the month starting July 18, he said, admitting the figure had been below expectations.

However, about 800 to 900 people had been applying for island visits each day in the past few days. He expected a further increase during the week-long National Day holiday, which falls around Oct. 1.

Wang Yi, Taiwan affairs chief of the Chinese mainland, had earlier in the month expressed optimism about the prospects for cross-Straits tourism.

He said the lower-than-expected figure earlier in the year reflected the choice by many mainland residents to stay home and watch the Olympics.

Last year, 40 million mainland residents took overseas trips, and 16 million visited Hong Kong while 12 million visited Macao.

"Judging from these figures, I believe the number of tourists going to Taiwan will also be quite staggering," he said.

Li Weiyi said more terminals and flights would also be opened for the weekend cross-Straits charter flights.

(Xinhua News Agency September 24, 2008)

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