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Tibet Is Open in Winter: Official
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A leading tourism official in Tibet says he wants to change the perception that Tibet is "closed" to tourists in winter so more visitors can see the region's attractions in off-season.

Pagzho, director of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Bureau of Tourism, said travelers on tight schedules who want to visit Potala Palace should avoid going during the peak summer season.

Pagzho said the misunderstanding that it was impossible to travel in Tibet during winter should be changed.

"I want people to know that Tibet is highly accessible to tourists in winter," he said. "I'm sure tourists could visit the Potala Palace three times a day if they came in winter."

The months of July to September are the prime time to visit Tibet where oxygen in the air becomes extremely scarce in cold weather in winter.

This summer peak season, Lhasa, the regional capital, saw an average of 9,000 tourists daily, of whom almost 5,000 arrived by train, said Pagzho.

The Potala Palace, one of many scenic sites in Tibet, was a priority sight for many tourists.

However, the palace administrators restrict visitors to 2,300 a day and the palace is open from 7:30 AM to 6:30 PM, making tickets highly sought-after during the summer months.

Tourists are forced to stand in long queues starting from early in the morning in order buy tickets to the Potala Palace.

Pagzho said tourism and cultural relic protection departments had been working together to attract more tourists to Tibet after October.

In the meantime, the regional government had built a hall where tourists who failed to obtain tickets could see the palace through a documentary. It had also stepped up construction of another museum at the foot of the palace to exhibit cultural relics from the palace.

Located in the northwestern corner of Lhasa, the Potala Palace was built by Tibetan King Songtsa Gambo in the Seventh Century during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It was extended during the 17th Century by the Dalai Lamas.

The 13-story palace features the essence of ancient Tibetan architectural art and was included on the list of world cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1994.

(Xinhua News Agency August 28, 2007)

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