Taiwan halts group tours to China; cites concern over flight path alterations

Taiwan halts group tours to China amidst ongoing tensions with Beijing over tourist access, citing concerns over recent flight path alterations in the Taiwan Strait. Despite China reopening access for its nationals to several tourist destinations post-pandemic, Taiwan remains absent from its approved list.

Taiwan’s Tourism Administration issued a directive on Wednesday, instructing travel agencies to cease organising new group tours to China. This decision comes as Beijing has not yet permitted Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan and has made alterations to a flight path in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

Despite China reopening access for its nationals to several popular tourist destinations post-pandemic, including Japan, Taiwan remains absent from its approved list. This omission reflects the ongoing tensions between Beijing and Taipei, with China asserting sovereignty over Taiwan, which operates under its own democratic government.

Taiwan had initially planned to resume group tours for Taiwanese citizens to China starting March 1, following their suspension during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, due to the evolving situation, including China’s continued prohibition on Chinese citizens visiting Taiwan and recent alterations to flight routes over the Taiwan Strait, the Tourism Administration has prohibited further tour arrangements by Taiwanese travel agencies.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office has yet to provide a response to this directive.

The Taiwanese government expressed discontent following China’s unilateral alteration of a flight path near the median line of the strait. This action was perceived as a potential attempt to disrupt the status quo, possibly for military purposes. In contrast, China downplayed the incident, characterising it as a routine measure to alleviate airspace congestion.

Despite the restrictions on group tours, Taiwanese individuals can still visit China independently. Additionally, Chinese nationals residing in third countries have been permitted to visit Taiwan as tourists since last September.

This latest development underscores the ongoing complexities in cross-strait relations and highlights the impact on tourism between Taiwan and China. The decision to halt new group tours reflects Taiwan’s concerns over China’s actions and its commitment to maintaining stability in the region. As tensions persist, both sides continue to navigate diplomatic challenges while striving to preserve peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The situation remains fluid, with tourism operators and travellers alike closely monitoring developments for any changes in travel regulations and policies.