Taiwan Hopes Chinese Tourists Jump-Start Economy

Taiwan has welcomed about 1,600 Amway salespeople from China. Beijing and Taiwan hope more mainland tourism to Taiwan will jump-start the island's economy and ease tensions between the longtime rivals.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

NPR's business news starts with Chinese tourists heading to Taiwan.

Taiwan welcomed a small invasion from mainland China yesterday - a boatload of Chinese Amway salespeople on a package tour. The hope is that an increase in mainland tourists will not only jumpstart Taiwan's economy but also ease tensions between these longtime rivals. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.

(Soundbite of drums)

ANTHONY KUHN: Since direct transportation links across the Taiwan Straights were restored last July, Taiwan has welcomed mainland tourists with lion dances and red carpets. The 1,600 Amway salespeople arrived by boat at the port of Keelung yesterday. They're the largest group of mainland tourists yet. Amway China says it will reward a total of 12,000 of its best salespeople with Taiwan package tours this spring.

Some Taiwanese critics though questioned whether President Ma Ying-jeou's strategy to boost the island's economy will pay off. They say that only a fraction of the 3,000 mainland tourists allowed in each day have actually come, but Jan See-tung(ph), an official with Taiwan's Tourism Bureau, says the average number of mainland tourists is already up to 2,000 a day and the two sides may eventually have to raise the quota.

Mr. JAN SEE-TUNG (Tourism Bureau): (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: It's not like you turn on some faucet and 3,000 mainland tourists a day come gushing out, he says; there's a period of adjustment and both sides have restrictive formalities to work through.

KUHN: To visit Taiwan, mainland tourists must pass a security check; they have to come from one of China's 13 richest cities and they have to prove they have savings worth about $7,300.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

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