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Tour groups still allowed in Tibet
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Tour groups are still allowed to travel to Tibet but the region's tourism bureau has suggested they postpone travel plans following Friday's Lhasa riots in which at least 13 people died.

"Tourism facilities around the scenic spots, such as the Jokhang temple, have suffered considerable damage in the riots, lowering the reception capacity," said Wang Songping, deputy director of the Tourism Bureau of Tibet, adding local government had not imposed a ban on travelers to the region.

"So, we suggest travel agencies suspend organizing tourists to come to Tibet."

The riots erupted in the holy city on Friday afternoon. Rioters set fire to more than 300 locations, including shops, homes, banks, government offices, and smashed and burned 56 vehicles, mainly in downtown Lhasa.

For tourists who travel to the plateau region by themselves, Wang suggested they could go to others places in Tibet first before going to Lhasa.

"Of course, this would affect Tibet's tourism to a certain extent, but it's only temporary thing," said Wang.

"March is never the tourism peak season for Tibet. We are very optimistic of fulfilling the goal we set for year 2008, that is, to receive 5.5 million tourists this year," he said.

Tibet received 4 million tourists from both home and abroad in 2007, up 60 percent from 2006. The remote southwestern region has seen a tourism boom in the past few years, especially since the Qinghai-Tibet railway began operation in July 2006.

(Xinhua News Agency March 19, 2008)

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