The Tourism Bureau is planning 10 new ecotourism packages to capitalize on Taiwan's rich ecological resources and promote development of the tourism industry, an official said Sunday.
"The bureau has commissioned the Taiwan Ecotourism Association to help design ecotourism themes and tour packages to be implemented from next year, " said Chen Yu-chuan, a section chief at the Tourism Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC).
The initiative stems from findings that the number of foreign ecotourists who travel to Taiwan to see indigenous or migratory bird species and diverse geological spectacles has been increasing significantly in recent years, Chen said.
"The phenomenon indicates that our plentiful natural and ecological marvels can be most precious assets to upgrade the local tourism industry," Chen noted.
Major local tour operators echoed Chen, saying that domestic travel styles are changing as local people are no longer focusing their interest on simply visiting major sightseeing spots.
"Tour packages that feature whale- and dolphin-watching, hiking in Fushan Botanical Park and walks along historic trails in mountainous regions have become ever-more popular, " said a Taipei-based travel agent who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Chiang Kun-ta, a local birdwatching tourism promoter who led a group of British and Dutch tour operators on an islandwide tour in mid-July to appreciate the myriad bird species seen in Taiwan, said that nearly 150 bird species can be sighted in 24 hours from coastal areas of Tainan County to Yushan, or Jade Mountain, in neighboring Chiayi and Nantou counties.
Chen said the planned ecotour packages could feature a variety of themes, such as geological wonders, lagoons and coastal wetlands, rare bird species and water birds, as well as insects and indigenous plants.
The ecotourism association is also expected to come up with recommended lists of spots for appreciation of various ecological marvels or natural spectacles, Chen said.
The bureau will invite local travel industry executives to a meeting in October to map out detailed ecotour packages, Chen said, adding that the Tourism Bureau will offer incentives or subsidies for travel agencies that help promote ecotourism.
The association has also been commissioned to help organize training courses for volunteer ecotour guides, Chen went on, adding that special ecotour guiding courses will also be launched between Aug. 18 and Sept. 11 for local professional group tour leaders and guides.
According to Chen, Taiwan has become increasingly known as one of the world's major whale- and dolphin-watching meccas, with the success rate of sighting whales and dolphins on a voyage from Shihti port in eastern Taiwan's Hualien County reaching 95 percent, a ratio widely believed to be the world's highest.
Moreover, Taiwan's fame as a mountain climbing mecca is also growing, with an ever-increasing number of foreign climbers traveling to Taiwan to scale local peaks, particularly from Austria, Japan and South Korea.
"The fact that Taiwan has about 290 mountains rising above 3,000 meters has contributed to the maturing of the local mountain climbing tour business," Chen explained.
"Most of our high mountains are located not far from major highways and it is not difficult for foreigners to reach and scale even our highest summits," he added.
(Source: Taiwan Time, 3 August 2009)
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