Tibet railway helps boost tourist numbers by 15%

Updated: 2007-05-05 08:58

LHASA: Since the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway on July 1 last year, Tibet has witnessed a rapid growth in tourism.

In the first quarter of this year, it received 116,000 visitors, up 15.8 percent on the same period last year, the Tibet regional tourism bureau said.

Tourism income during the first quarter reached 105 million yuan ($13.6 million), up 16.5 percent on the same period year on year.

In the run-up to the peak season, the bureau is drawing up plans to control visitor numbers at the top attractions, such as the Potala Palace, the former residence of Dalai Lama, because of the fragility of the ancient buildings.

The palace's opening hours will be extended from July to September, and the tickets must be booked in advance.

Lhasa also plans to build a replica of the Potala Palace in miniature.

Prior to the opening of the railway, the palace received an average of 1,400 tourists a day. During last year's peak season, however, that figure rose to 6,000.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the first to link Tibet to the rest of China, starts in Xining, in Northwest China's Qinghai Province and ends in Lhasa. Before the opening of the 1,956-km railway, tourists could only reach Tibet by air or road.

Tibet hosted more than 2.51 million tourists last year, of which 154,800 were from overseas. They spent 2.77 billion yuan in the region.

In a bid to attract even more visitors, the bureau has promised to freeze ticket prices at all tourist sites within the autonomous region this year.

Jin Shixun, director of the development and reform commission of the Tibet autonomous regional government said the region expected to host 3 million tourists and bring in 3.4 billion yuan this year.

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