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Quake damages Sichuan tourist industry
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Liu Zhiwen, vice governor of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Aba, said that tourism in quake-affected Aba has suffered heavy losses. Fortunately the two World Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites located at Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong and the Dagu Glaciers were not significantly damaged. Authorities plan to re-open these tourist areas in June or July.

Liu said that tourism is one of the pillar industries in Aba and the earthquake has currently generated losses of more than 7 billion yuan. Because the epicenter was not in Songpan nearby places of historic interest and scenic beauty were spared. In fact, out of the 4 World Natural and Cultural Heritages in Aba only Wolong was damaged.

But many potential tourists fear that Jiuzhaigou infrastructures may be unsafe. In response, Liu assured the public that tourist infrastructures such as hotels and cable cars have been thoroughly tested and found to be in perfect condition.

Currently, air traffic around and highways from Lanzhou to these areas are clear. Other routes are being repaired as quickly as possible but the National Tourism Bureau has suspended tourism due to safety considerations. The Aba government has applied for these areas to be reopened in June or July, pending official approval.

Despite this good news, we cannot ignore the damage incurred to scenic spots and historical sites located in Wenchuan, Lixian, and Maoxian. Ancient villages and forts built by Tibetan and Qiang people suffered significant damage in these regions and authorities fear that it may impact upon contemporary Qiang culture.

(China.org.cn by Fan Junmei, June 2, 2008)

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