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5,000 Beijingers register for visits to Taiwan in Feb.

More than 5,000 Beijing residents registered for passes to visit Taiwan in February, a record high, according to the Public Security Bureau of Beijing.


The department for overseas travel under the bureau has received more than 25,000 applications from Beijing residents for trips to Taiwan since the island began admitting mainland tourists on July 4 last year.


The daily average number of applications submitted has climbed from 70 in last July to more than 300, and the majority of applicants are tourists, according to statistics released by the bureau.


More than 80,000 Chinese mainland tourists have visited Taiwan as of February 28, said Shao Qiwei, chairman of the mainland-based Cross-strait Tourism Exchange Association.


During the Spring Festival peak season, about 13,400 Chinese mainland tourists flocked to Taiwan.


The surge of tourists to Taiwan mainly resulted from the lifting of various restrictions on mainland travelers by Taiwan tourism authority in a bid to stimulate the island's economy under the impact of the global financial crisis, the bureau explained.


The warming mainland-Taiwan relations and key policy changes in the past year have also contributed to the cross-straits tourism boom.


In June of last year, the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) agreed to open Taiwan to mainland tourists in July.


The agreement allowed residents from 13 mainland provinces and municipalities to visit Taiwan. The agreement extended to an additional 12 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities on Jan. 20.


Air service has also been improved across the straits with weekend charter flights starting from July last year, and direct flights and daily services starting from December.


(Xinhua News Agency March 9, 2009)