Taiwan is likely to lift a ban on visits by individual Chinese tourists, Premier Wu Den-yih said Wednesday in yet another sign of Taipei's fast-warming ties with Beijing.
So far Chinese have only been allowed to travel to the island in groups as Taiwan's authorities are concerned they might otherwise over-stay their visas and work illegally.
"Individual Chinese tourists may be allowed to come early next year if preparatory measures have been completed by the two sides," the Taiwanese premier said at a conference in Taipei, according to state-run Central News Agency.
Up to 500 individual tourists will be permitted to travel to the island each day after the ban is lifted, probably in early 2011, Wu was quoted by the Economic Daily News as saying earlier in the day.
Initially, the opportunity will be available only to tourists from Beijing, Shanghai, the city of Tianjin in northern China, Chongqing municipality in the southwest, and Jiangsu province in the east, he said.
Beijing still considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
But the former bitter rivals have taken a series of measures to boost bilateral tourism since the island's Beijing-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008.
"The relaxation of the control will mark another step forward in ties with China, and it certainly will benefit the economy," Antony Liao, president of Phoenix Tours, a leading tourism operator in Taiwan, told AFP.
Chinese tourists made 900,000 visits to Taiwan last year and authorities on the island expect the figure to rise to up to 1.2 million this year.
Among the steps taken to boost ties is the opening by the two sides of semi-official tourism offices.Reuse content