updated 4/20/2009 11:47:36 AM ET 2009-04-20T15:47:36

Taiwan has reached its goal of hosting 3,000 Chinese tourists a day as ties between the two rivals continue to strengthen, the government said Sunday.

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Chinese tourist arrivals averaged 3,013 people per day so far this month, compared with the daily average of 580 over the past eight months, the Immigration Agency said on its Web site. China officially lifted a ban on tourist travel to Taiwan last July.

Since taking office last May, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has sought to improve relations with Beijing. Attracting Chinese tourists has been a crucial part of his policy of using close economic ties to help boost the island's sputtering economy.

Officials said Chinese tourist arrivals have increased significantly since March.

To help shore up the island's economy, the Chinese Tourism Administration agreed in February that Chinese from 25 provinces and municipalities — an increase from the previous 13 — be allowed to make the visit across the Taiwan Strait.

The Chinese also promised to promote new tour packages to Taiwan, including boat cruises and theme tours.

The Taiwanese government has hoped that up to 1 million Chinese tourists will visit the island a year, bringing in an estimated $2 billion in tourism revenues.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. China stills claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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