Happy Days Here Again in Tibet

created: 2008-07-01

Tibet welcomed its first batch of foreign tourists on June, 25th, 2008, after a hiatus of more than three months following the March 14 riots in Lhasa.

The first two foreigners to arrive in the regional capital were from Sweden, Liao Lisheng, a spokesman for the Tibetan tourism bureau, said.

Four tourists from Singapore will arrive on Sunday, Tanor, deputy director of the bureau, told a press conference on Tuesday.

After the riots, the regional government stopped issuing tourist permits to overseas travelers and tourism authorities asked travel agencies to postpone organizing tour groups.

It cited safety concerns and the reconstruction of tourism facilities around scenic spots damaged in the unrest. However, it did not explain why independent domestic travelers were not prohibited from entering the region.

According to Tanor, the region has now restored all its attractions.

Tibet has regained social order with the resumption of schools, businesses and religious activities, as well as the reopening of leading monasteries such as Jokhang, Ramoche, Sera and Drepung, Tanor said.

"The success of the Olympic torch relay four days ago in Lhasa demonstrated the foundation for social stability has been consolidated," he said.

Tibet reopened to domestic tour groups on April 23, followed by visitors from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan in May. As of Friday, the region had received more than 160 tour groups.

"Tourists got to see the stable situation, harmonious society and beautiful environment of Tibet," Tanor said.

"I don't worry about my personal safety here at all. It's safe and the people are very friendly," a tourist surnamed Tseng from Hsinchu, Taiwan, told the Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday.

Travel agencies are now gearing for a surge in tourism.

"We are doing two things: first, we will resume the tour groups cancelled after the riot; second, we will step up promotion and invite more groups," Huang Lihua, general manager of the Tibet Tourism Corp, the largest travel agency in the region, said.

Prior to the riots, the region had experienced a tourism boom, especially since the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet railway on July 1, 2006.

Tibet received 4 million tourists from home and abroad last year, up 60 percent from 2006. Tourism revenue in the year was 4.8 billion yuan ($700 million), accounting for more than 14 percent of its gross domestic product.

In the first two months of this year, the region welcomed 110,000 tourists, including 6,000 from overseas, up 60 percent on last year, according to the Guangzhou Development Security. Since May, it has received 113,000 tourists, down 76 percent on last year.

Source:China Daily/Xinhua