Taiwan is set to launch regular flights to China in mid-July, Mao Chi-kuo, Taiwan's minister of transportation and communications announced on the weekend.
This move will benefit airlines on both sides while presenting another sign of closer ties between the political rivals.
Top negotiators from Taiwan and China agreed to 270 scheduled flights a week in April, expanding air links from the current system of limited chartered flights, however, at the time a timetable had not been organized.
"Both sides have been closed from each other for too long," said Mao Chi-kuo, who is tasked with planning and implementing policies related to the sectors.
"We have to do things step by step, and the scheduled flights in mid-July should be a step in the right direction," Mao said in an interview.
Since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May last year, Taiwan and China have signed a number of trade deals opening up its transport, tourism and transport sectors, which has boosted the island's stock and currency markets.
Throughout the year, Taiwan stocks have been one of the best performing markets in the world, partly due to expectations that Chinese money could flow into the island once restrictions limiting investments from the mainland are loosened.
Taiwan also hopes closer ties with China will help boost domestic consumption and private investment will help guide the nation’s economy through the current economic crisis.
There has been a spike in tourism from China, which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has historically blocked the free flow of tourists, with visitor figures staying around the upper end of a 3,000 cap.
However, Mao said he expected that cap to be lifted gradually as ties between the two sides are strengthened, with Chinese tourist numbers rising to 3 to 4 million a year over the next few years.
"It's not like turning on a tap," said Mao. "Chinese tourists aren't going to just appear, but when they do, as they are right now, investors are going to see that and realise that there're great opportunities here."
The Four Seasons hotel chain is scheduled to open its first hotel in Taiwan in the next two or three years, following complaints about a lack of international hotel chains on the island.
Mao said decisions on whether Taiwan or China's airlines could invest in each other was best left for the firms themselves, and said it had not yet decided if the sector would be included in a list of industries open to China.
(Source: E-Trave Blackboard)
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