[photopress:travel_rhapsody_of_the_seas.jpg,full,alignright]The Rhapsody of the Seas has just sailed from Kaohsiung harbor and out towards Hong Kong. That fact is nothing out of the ordinary. Such cruise liners frequently stop at Taiwan’s biggest commercial port. What was unusual was the cruise carried an unprecedented boatload of mainland Chinese tourists
The authorities in Kaohsiung were the first to admit that the tour party, which numbered only 668, was not enormous, nor was its expected impact on the local economy. But it was symbolic of change: the beachhead in a lucrative capital invasion for which the business leaders of Taiwan have been preparing for years.
If, as expected, the KMT under Ma Ying-jiu regains the Taiwan presidency next month, then there is expected to be a speed-up of the opening of economic ties between Taiwan and the mainland. Mainland tourism into Taiwan will be one of the most significant events.
There is huge pent-up demand for mainlanders to visit the ‘Precious Isle’, and they increasingly have big money to spend on eating out, medical care, and general tourist pursuits.
This is desperately important for the airlines of Taiwan. There are four of them and they are all bleeding money.
Taiwan’s overcrowded air passenger market began showing severe signs of financial strain this week when Far Eastern Air Transport, the island’s largest domestic carrier, admitted that a US$4.8m cheque for fuel had bounced.
Although the company obtained a one-month extension for the payment, the incident suggests the island’s aviation industry, which has been losing money for years, is operating in unsustainable conditions.
The airlines are caught by the ban on air transport between Taiwan and the mainland.
If the restrictions were to be lifted the airlines would become profitable and the whole of the economy would receive a boost. That is why the 668 tourists on the Rhapsody of the Seas are so important.
Source: Times Online