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Tibet Receives More Tourists than Expected
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A train ticket to Lhasa is among the hardest-to-get passes in China this summer as the southwestern Tibet Autonomous Region is receiving more tourists than expected.

By the end of July, Tibet has received more than 1.7 million tourist arrivals, according to the regional tourism administration.

The administration has been forced to reset its forecast of tourist arrivals for the whole year to 3.5 million, up from 3 million projected at the start of the year.

An influx of domestic and overseas tourists, accompanied by an urge to travel along the world's highest railway, has caused a seasonal shortage of tickets on trains to and from Lhasa, said Wang Xinwen, head of the Lhasa Railway Station.

Railway authorities have sent a temporary train running between Xining and Lhasa, the starting and terminating points of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, from Aug. 1 to Oct. 17, yet the two stations are still crowded with passengers who cannot get tickets in time to follow their schedules, Wang said.

China International Travel Service, one of the country's largest travel agencies, sent more than 500 tourists to Tibet in the first seven months of this year, compared with 400 for the whole of 2006, said Zhang Lingjie, a manager in charge of domestic routes.

"Many people like to travel to Tibet by train during the summer vacation," he said. "We had to impose a 20-percent price hike for our package tours since July 15, because our running costs were increasing as a result of higher costs for food and lodging in Tibet and hard-to-get train tickets."

He said nearly every train to and from Lhasa is fully booked.

Trains have been running between Lhasa and several big cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Lanzhou, Xining and Chengdu, since the first ever railway to Tibet became operational on July 1, 2006.

Tibet's tourism income is estimated to have topped 1.6 billion yuan (US$205 million) by the end of July.

(Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2007)

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