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Tibet Makes Plans to Attract More Tourists

Tourists who plan a visit to Tibet and Qinghai may soon be able to enjoy better-planned itineraries, China Daily has been told.

The National Tourism Administration, related local governments and tourism experts are drawing up detailed plans for areas along the newly launched Qinghai-Tibet railway line.

The project will help travelers better plan their journeys to the vast plateau by mapping out major tourism sites and products that can be bought there, members of the planning team told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

In addition to existing tourist sites, new areas on the plateau will be opened for visitors, said Zhang Chao, a member of the planning team.

By exploring new spring and winter scenic spots, the sightseeing period will be extended from the current six months (May-October) to more than eight months after 2020 when all the projects are finished, said Zhang.

In order to attract different tourists groups, tourism themes will also be developed, including those for religious pilgrims and more adventurous tourists.

Because of its high altitude, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau boasts scenic spots not found anywhere else in the world.

According to Zhang, due to the high price of getting to the area, the target tourists are middle-class families and foreigners.

Statistics from the local tourism bureau show the region is particularly popular with overseas travelers.

The average foreigner to Chinese ratio at the country's tourist spots is 1:7, but the ratio in the Qinghai-Tibet region is 1.4:1.

Local governments also plan to upgrade their poor infrastructure networks, including the provision of water and heat supplies.

But experts warn the fragile ecologic and cultural environment needs protection.

The number of tourists will be controlled to prevent the ecosystem from collapsing because of excessive numbers, according to Yang Kaizhong, an economist who leads the planning team.

Certain areas in the regions, including cultural heritage sites and nature reserves, will be banned from receiving tourists.

Meanwhile, the first train linking Shanghai and Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, set off yesterday, and the first train bridging Guangzhou and Lhasa will begin today. Both trains were fully booked.

Currently, seven cities have trains traveling directly to Lhasa. "People previously wanted to visit the remote west of China. But their desire was hindered by the inconvenient transport network," Zhang Xiaojun, a manager at the China Traveling Agency, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

"But now with new railway lines bridging the east and the west, it will change the current tourism framework in the country."

Tourism income in Qinghai Province during the past three months has risen 30 per cent compared with the same period last year.

(China Daily October 2, 2006)


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