The Chinese government has stopped issuing individual travel permits for Chinese visitors to the self-governing island of Taiwan, restricting travel to groups organised by travel agencies. China blamed deteriorating relations with what it considers to be a wayward province for the travel ban, which came into force on August 1.

The number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan accelerated when direct air links between China and Taiwan were established in 2009, peaking at 4.18 million in 2015, but fell to 2.7 million in 2018.

The restriction applies to residents of 47 mainland cities, China's tourism ministry said, and may result in 700,000 fewer arrivals over the next six months, costing Taiwan TWD28 billion dollars (USD890 million) in lost revenue, an industry insider told the South China Morning Post.

Taiwanese Transport Minister Lin Chai-lung responded by saying his government would spend an additional TWD3.6 billion (USD115 million) on tourism marketing in the fourth quarter of 2019. Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen said the move was an attempt to manipulate upcoming presidential elections in January 2020.

Currently 52 of the 137 routes available from Taipei Taoyuan are to Chinese destinations, foremost among them Shanghai Pudong with 81 weekly frequencies, according to the ch-aviation capacities module. Twenty carriers conduct a total of 516 weekly frequencies between China and Taiwan, the top five being China Southern Airlines (CZ, Guangzhou) (82 frequencies), Taiwanese flag carrier China Airlines (CI, Taipei Taoyuan) (76), China Eastern Airlines (MU, Shanghai Hongqiao) (73), Taiwan's EVA Air (BR, Taipei Taoyuan) (64), and Air China (CA, Beijing Capital) (44).

It is not the first time Beijing has used travel as a diplomatic weapon. In August 2018, it imposed a ban on Chinese tourists going to Palau, which analysts suggested was due to the tiny Pacific island's diplomatic ties with Taiwan, leaving aircraft and hotels empty. Earlier this year, media in China claimed that Chinese tourists were abandoning New Zealand because it had banned the telecoms giant Huawei from operating there.