Taipei, Aug. 21 (CNA) Taiwan's Tourism Bureau is stepping up efforts to make a strong case for hiking in the country's mountain ranges as it prepares to market 2020 as the Year of Mountain Tourism.
The bureau has joined with the Construction and Planning Agency, which is responsible for distributing mountain permits, to set up a panel of experts and develop 12 mountain trails around Taiwan with unique cultural features, it said in a statement Wednesday.
Taiwan's efforts to further position the country as an important international mountaineering destination began in July when the government facilitated public access to the island's national parks.
Individuals who have wanted to visit restricted "ecological protected areas" in Taiwan's national parks had to apply for permits from both the National Police Agency and the Construction and Planning Agency in the past.
But the Construction and Planning Agency launched a new mountain permit application portal that requires mountain visitors to apply for only one permit, and provides fast-track processing to expedite applications, the bureau said.
Much of Taiwan is covered by mountains, and it has 268 mountains of over 3,000 meters, according to the Tourism Bureau website.
That environment has made hiking and mountain climbing one of the favorite pastimes of Taiwan residents, but exploring Taiwan's mountains has become even more popular in recent years.
The number of permits issued to both Taiwan citizens and foreign nationals for trails in Yushan, Taroko and Shei Pa national parks has risen from 153,736 in 2016 to 187,053 in 2017 and 201,526 in 2018, according to Construction and Planning Agency figures.
In 2018, foreign nationals accounted for 7.24 percent of the permits issued.