Taiwan and the mainland agree to open semi-official tourism offices on each other's capital by the end of the year to deal with issues generated by growing cross-Straits tourism.

This would be the first time the two sides have set up offices of any kind in each other's territories since they split in 1949.

Taiwan's Tourism Bureau's deputy director general David Hsieh said in Taipei on Monday that the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association will set up an office in Beijing and the Beijing-based Cross-Straits Tourism Exchange Association will establish an office in Taipei.

The offices will promote cross-Straits tourism and deal with tourist disputes and accidents, Hsieh said. The two sides may also send government officials to staff the offices.

Man Hongwei, general-secretary of Cross-Straits Tourism Exchange Association, told China Daily yesterday that the preparation work is underway.

The agreement to open the tourism offices was reached during talks between the two associations earlier this month in Hong Kong.

Taipei opened its doors to mainland tourists last July after Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou, who favors closer ties with the mainland, took power in May last year.

The Taipei-based Central News Agency quoted Janice Lai, director of Taiwan's tourism bureau, as urging people on both sides not to politicize the opening of the new offices.

The offices, aimed at providing tourist information and services, will be separate from official offices that handle tourism links between Taiwan and the mainland, she said.

Hsu Chuan-ping, an official from a Taiwan travel agency, said currently there is no organization in charge of disputes regarding tour fees, tour complaints or accidents during cross-Straits tours. Opening tourism offices on each side could tackle these problems.

The first mainland tour group landed in Taiwan on July 4 last year. Since then, nearly 400,000 mainland tourists have visited the island, ChinaDaily said.

Mainland surveys have shown that some 70% of mainlanders expect to visit Taiwan, mainly out of curiosity about the island, and Taiwan surveys showed 70% of mainland travelers are willing to visit Taiwan for a second time, but hope Taiwan improves services.

Taiwan authorities have realized the great business opportunities brought by the mainland tourists. Official figures said mainland tourist have brought $768 million in revenue to the island, which is important for the island in the economic crisis and will boost closer relations with the mainland