A total of 1,600 tourists, the first batch of a big tour group from Chinese mainland, have left for Taiwan Saturday evening.
The first of the nine groups comprising 12,000 tourists from Amway Company started their journey by "Legend of the Seas", a passenger liner of Royal Caribbean International, from this east China's coastal city at 6:15 pm.
It's also the first tour group to the island by a passenger liner since the mainland and Taiwan started direct flights, postal and shipping services on December 15, 2008, ending a 59-year ban on such links.
The seven-night trip is scheduled to make stopovers at main port cities of Taiwan, including Jilong, Hualian, and Taizhong. The tourists will visit famous attractions such as Sun-Moon Lake.
The nine groups of tourists are expected to spend a total of 600 million New Taiwan dollars in Taiwan, said Liu Mingxiong, vice-president of Amway Greater China.
More than 100,000 trips have been made by Chinese mainland visitors to Taiwan from last July until March 12, according to the Cross-straits Tourism Exchange Association.
Since Taiwan was opened to mainland tourists last July, 4,105 tourist groups have visited the island, with an average of 447 daily arrivals.
The number of mainland tourists surged in March, with an average of more than 1,000 trips registered every day after residents from another 12 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, including Sichuan, Henan and Heilongjiang, were given permission to visit Taiwan on January 20.
Previously, only 13 mainland provinces and municipalities were allowed to visit the island under an agreement signed last June by the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation.
The number of travel agencies has increased from 33 to 146. The newly added 113 travel agencies will start organizing tourist groups at the end of the month, when the numbers of Chinese mainland travelers is expected to surge.