Last week, travel agents told of a government mandated ban on foreign travel to Tibet as sensitivity mounts after the ongoing wave of self-immolation recently spread into Lhasa. While a lack of foreign tourists may be hurting luxury hotels in the region, Tibet’s summer tourist season is still booming due to an upsurge in domestic Chinese visitors seeking a momentary escape from urban life. AP reports:
Tibet is seeing a boom in Chinese visitors, meaning that the government’s latest ban on foreigners following self-immolation protests against Beijing’s rule has barely dented the region’s tourism industry.
[…]Hotels catering to Chinese tourists in Lhasa are doing brisk business. With its pristine, yak-grazed grasslands and snowcapped mountains, the Tibetan plateau provides a stunning getaway for many urban-dwellers.
[…]A Tibet tourism policy targeting domestic travelers who are less likely to sympathize with anti-Beijing sentiment reflects China’s desire to both develop the region economically in hopes of winning over its ethnic Tibetan population and keep a lid on embarrassing reports of unrest.
As the foreign press continues to cover the ban, an article in yesterday’s China Daily announcing the success of Tibet’s tourist industry seems to counter that coverage by putting emphasis on recent international visits:
Tourism numbers have been increasing for southwest China’s Tibet autonomous region, with more than 1,000 tourists visiting the region every day, the Tibet Tourism Bureau said Monday.
The bureau said 1,588 foreign tourists from 40 countries, including the United States, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Japan and Nepal, visited Tibet on Sunday.
The number of tourists from the United States on that day reached 330, the largest group among those from the above-mentioned countries. And the following three tourist groups are Germans, Malaysians and Singaporeans, according to the tourism bureau.
[…]Tibet’s government chief Padma Choling said that Tibet is striving to build itself into an international tourist destination, with a goal of drawing 15 million visitors annually by 2015.