Tourism industry sees dollar signs as Taiwan opens to individual travelers from Hong Kong

The tourism industry is rubbing its hands with glee at the prospect of long-awaited trips to Taiwan after the popular destination lifted all travel restrictions on Hong Kong and Macau residents from coming Monday.

Yuen Chun-ning, Executive Director of a local major travel agency WWPKG, said the move could prompt airliners to increase the number of flights they operate and open up more destinations they are flying to.

He told a radio program on Wednesday that the tourism industry is glad to see Taiwan authorities making the move, but whether it could boost businesses for travel agencies depends on how fast airliners can resume normal passenger capacity for their flights.

Yuen said most airliners flying to Taiwan from Hong Kong were running at 20 percent of their original passenger capacity during the pre-Covid times, with few destinations to choose from along with expensive fares.

He said he was aware that airliners were preparing to boost their services in view of the change, increasing flights flying into Taichung and Kaohsiung, and could even arrange flights to Penghu during the summer holiday.

Meanwhile, the travel agency boss expected more travelers to opt for Taiwan during the Easter holidays as restrictions were still imposed on flights flying to Japan.

In opening to individual travelers from the two SARs for the first time since the pandemic struck, Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council deputy minister Liang Wen-chieh said earlier that people can apply for entry permits over the internet as they did before restrictions were imposed in February 2020.

The council will start processing online applications from 9am on Monday - a decision made "in consideration of the easing of the pandemic situation in Taiwan."

Under Taiwan's Covid measures, travelers must be masked for up to eight days after arrival. Then they will no longer be required to wear masks in most indoor settings.

Failure to follow the regulations will result in a fine of at least NT$3,000 (HK$780) that could reach up to NT$15,000.

At the present time, only seven types of mainland visitors are allowed to enter the island, including business travelers, students and relatives of Taiwanese citizens. Mainlanders remain banned as tourists.