XIAMEN-- Chinese mainland on Sunday announced a raft of measures on tourism, transportation, farmers and food safety to boost Taiwan's economic growth and cross-Strait relations.
A pilot plan allowing mainlanders to visit Taiwan as individual tourists will start on June 28, which covers residents of Beijing, Shanghai and southeastern city of Xiamen at the first stage, said Wang Yi, head of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office.
Wang told a conference at the weeklong Straits Forum being held in Xiamen of Fujian Province that the mainland and Taiwan also agreed to allow Fujian residents to visit the islands of Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu in the Taiwan Strait as individual tourists.
Observers predict that the influx of mainland tourists will bring vitality to Taiwan's export-oriented economy which had greatly suffered from the global economic downturn.
Currently, mainlanders are only allowed to visit Taiwan on package tours after the authorities lifted a partial ban in July 2008.
At Sunday's conference, the two sides also announced to increase the number of cross-Strait passenger flights by more than 50 percent to 558 flights per week, and add terminals for the direct flights in four mainland cities, including one in northwestern city of Lanzhou, which brought the total number of cross-Strait flight terminals to 50 on both sides of the Strait.
The moves aim to cope with the increasing number of mainlanders who wish to visit Taiwan.
The number of mainland tourists traveling to the island reached 2.34 million as of the end of May, China's top tourism official said at the conference. There are also an increasing number of mainland business travelers and government delegations visiting Taiwan.
Meanwhile, both sides agreed to "regulate airfares" for flights from Beijing and Shanghai to Taipei.
Currently, the cheapest one-way ticket between Beijing and Taipei on Air China, the mainland's flagship carrier, costs around 1,300 yuan (about 200 U.S. dollars) while a full price one-way ticket costs more than 3,000 yuan, according to the airline's website.
Some members of the public on both sides have complained about the high price.
For the past decades, travelers had to transfer at other airports, particularly the one in Hong Kong, in order to reach Taiwan by air.
In 2003, the two sides agreed to operate charter flights during Spring Festival, China's biggest public holiday.
Regular direct flights across the Strait have been available since July 2008 to mainly serve mainland package tourists visiting Taiwan.
The mainland also decided to facilitate entry and exit procedures for Taiwan residents and lower charges for endorsing their passports by 50 percent starting from July 1.
Meanwhile, four "enterprising parks" will be set up in four cities of Fujian, central Henan and southwestern Guangxi provinces for Taiwan farmers launching agricultural startups on the mainland, said Wang Yi.
Both sides also agreed to encourage mainland enterprises to purchase farm produce and other products listed in the early harvest program of the cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) directly in Taiwan.
A general manager surnamed Lin of a farm produce company in Taiwan's southern city of Tainan said he hoped to seize the opportunity to benefit from the development of the island's farm and fishing sector as the mainland has become Taiwan's largest export market.
Further, both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation and exchanges concerning nuclear power security and food safety.
The third Straits Forum, which opened Saturday in Xiamen, facing Taiwan across the Strait, will close in the island's city of Taichung on Friday.
By Xinhua writers Li Huizi, Shi Shouhe