Beijing -- Beijing saw a marked drop in the number of overseas tourists in April, which fell by 5.3 percent year-on-year, according to official statistics revealed on Tuesday.
Yu Xiuqin, the bureau's spokeswoman attributed the decrease partly to Beijing's tightened business visa approvals on foreign visitors for international exhibitions and conferences, because of safety concerns for the coming Olympic Games.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on May 6 that the tightened visa approval ahead of the Games was in line with international practices, and came from the need to guarantee security in the national capital in the run-up for the event.
The statistics bureau said that the mid-March Lhasa violence was a minor factor in discouraging some foreign tourists from coming to Beijing, which is a popular entry gate for many foreign tourists to travel to other parts of the country, including Tibet.
The bureau denied the speculation that problems on the international relay of the Olympic torch has affected Beijing's tourism.
It added that the rising value of Chinese currency, the yuan, and hotel prices in the Olympic year has led to increased travel costs in Beijing, which discouraged travel interest from some foreign tourists.
Figures released by the bureau showed the capital had registered 1.23 million overseas tourists in the first four months, up 2.6 percent over the same period a year ago. However, the rising margin shrank by four percentage points, compared to the growth rate in the first quarter.
Among 385,000 overseas tourists who visited Beijing in April, 38,000 were from Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions as well as Taiwan, which were down by 30 percent year on year.
The number of foreign tourists decreased by 1.5 percent to 347,000.
The bureau said that foreign tourists from three of Beijing's major markets in America, Japan and the Republic of Korea saw sharp falls of 17.2 percent, 24.4 percent and 11 percent, respectively in April.