The diversity of Taiwan's attractions makes for a memorable holiday experience for people of all ages and from all walks of life. From indulging in the street food at Taipei's night markets to outstanding museum collections and historic temples, taking in stunning natural wonders or outdoor activities, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Taiwan's charms were recognised in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers who called it Ilha Formosa or 'beautiful island'. But it has taken a while for the message to reach the modern-day tourism market. Not so long ago, Taiwan was often referred to in travel publications as 'Asia's best-kept secret'. The situation is changing fast. In the past three years, tourism arrivals have increased 58 per cent. Last year, the number of visitors reached more than 6 million for the first time. New tourism facilities are springing up all across the island. The changing times are apparent in the queues of visitors that form daily to view the priceless treasures at the National Palace Museum in Taipei - home to the world's foremost collection of Chinese antiquities. Hotel rooms are being added to keep up with rising demand at Taiwan's most spectacular scenic wonders such as Taroko Gorge, Sun Moon Lake and the hot springs resorts of northern Taiwan. From the tourist attractions of Kaohsiung in the south to the dramatic northeastern coast of Yilan and sightseeing spots in the enchanting central mountain ranges, visitors can be found in increasing numbers. But opportunities still abound for those seeking some quiet relaxation, whether it be snorkelling or scuba-diving, joining eco-tourism activities, exploring indigenous culture, or hiking to the top of Yushan - 'Jade Mountain' - the tallest peak in northeast Asia. The turning point for the island's tourism industry came in 2008 when an agreement was concluded with mainland authorities to allow mainland tour groups to visit. By 2010, mainland visitors had overtaken the Japanese as the largest source of tourists. Last year, individual travellers from the mainland were permitted to travel to Taiwan with an initial quota of 500 per day from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen. Preferential treatment has been extended to the estimated 300,000 non-permanent mainland residents living in Hong Kong. Since last November, visa restrictions have been relaxed and eligible residents will be granted approval within 12 working days. 'We encourage this group of mainland Chinese, who have high purchasing power, to tour Taiwan,' says Wang Chun-bao, director of Taiwan Visitors Association (Hong Kong). The scheme draws an enthusiastic response, contributing to a 16 per cent increase in the number of visitors from Hong Kong and Macau arriving in Taiwan in December. Hong Kong and Taiwan agreed to add 28 flights a week for each side and encourage new airlines to enter the market. Apart from providing additional passenger capacity on major routes to and from Taipei and Kaohsiung, airlines will be able to offer special chartered flights to serve Taichung, Hualien, Taitung and Tainan, and airports on the offshore islands of Penghu and Kinmen. Along with helping with easier access to off-the-beaten track attractions, travel agencies expect the extra flights to result in lower fares for visitors from Hong Kong.