For Dobgyai, a tourism park manager just outside Tibet's capital Lhasa, knew the Qinghai-Tibet railway would make his life busier but he still was not prepared for the influx.
"I never expected so many people to come all at once," said the harried manager who has to turn visitors away.
Dobgyai said that his Niangre Tibetan Folklore and Customs Tourism Park, six kilometers north of Lhasa, has been full to capacity with 200 tourists visiting each day since the 1,956-km-long railway began carrying passengers on July 1. According to Tibet Autonomous Regional Tourism Administration, the new rail line delivered 49,700 passengers in Lhasa during its first 24 days of operations. Trains run between Lhasa and five inland cities of China including Beijing and Shanghai.
Dobgyai said his park received more than 30,000 tourists last year, but he expects that number to exceed 50,000 this year.
The railway has also brought benefits to people living in more remote areas of Tibet.
"I'm satisfied with by my business over the last month," said Yuzhoin, who operates the Kangzhuo Holiday Village in Naiqiong Town, Doilungdeqen County, more than 20 kilometers west of Lhasa.
"All the 20 guest houses in my village have been fully occupied since July 1," she said.
Lobsang Gyaicain, vice chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government, said the number of tourists traveling to Tibet by air, long-distance bus or driving on their own have also increased markedly. He credits the tourist campaign "Travel to Tibet" which was launched in connection with the opening of the railway for stimulating people's interest in getting to Tibet anyway they can.
Lobsang Gyaicain said, Tibet hosted about 300,000 tourists who spent at least one night in the region during the July 1-20 period, up 50 percent over the corresponding period of last year. The figure included 172,000 tourists who traveled by air and 41,000 who arrived by road transport.
The occupancy rate of guest houses in Lhasa reached 80 percent during the period, the official said.
The regional tourism administration forecast that Tibet is expected to host more than 2.6 million tourists in 2006, a rise of 44 percent year on year. Tourism income will reach 2.8 billion yuan (US$350 million), up 45 percent over last year.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway stretches 1,956 kilometers from Xining, capital of northwest China's Qinghai Province, to Lhasa. About 960 kilometers is located 4,000 meters above sea level and the highest point is 5,072 meters, at least 200 meters higher than the Peruvian railway in the Andes, formerly the world's highest track.
(Xinhua News Agency August 3, 2006)