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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Yogurt festival marks Tibet's post-Games boom

August 28, 2008

By Xin Dingding
China Daily (People's Republic of China)
August 26, 2008

LHASA -- Tibet stands to gain from a post-Games tourism boom, which
coincides with the region's grandest annual festival, local officials
have said.

Foreign tourists who have enjoyed the capital's historical sites and
folkways during their Olympic visit might now seize the opportunity
to see the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau while exploring the country's vast
landscape, Tanor, deputy director of the Tibet tourism
administration, said at a press conference in Beijing on Monday.

The number of tourists to the Tibet autonomous region is expected to
reach its peak in September, starting with the annual Shoton (Yogurt)
Festival, on Saturday, Tanor said.

"We are expecting more foreign tourists to the festival than in
previous years as the festival coincides with the break between the
Olympics and the Paralympics," he said.

The seven-day festival originated 1,000 years ago, when nomads and
farmers offered yoghurt to monks ending their annual summer
meditation retreat, and reached its zenith in the 17th century.

This year's celebration consists of activities that include the
staging of grand Tibetan dramas and a giant thangka displaying
ceremony, Tashi Phuntsog, director of the festival organizing committee, said.

Nearly half a year after the riots here that rocked the nation, the
city's shattered tourism has gradually picked up, and tourism is on
the rise once more.

Since the autonomous region reopened to domestic tourists on April 24
and to overseas tourists on June 25, the number of tourists has
steadily climbed, according to Tibet tourism administration statistics.

The March 14 riots dealt a severe blow to the region's tourism. The
region received only 16,000 tourists in April.

But numbers jumped to 96,000 in June and to 350,000 in July, which is
"equal to the total of tourists in Tibet in the first six months this
year," Yu Yungui, the top official of the administration, said in a
recent group interview.

"At present, most domestic tourists are non-group tourists while 70
percent of overseas tourists here are from the United States or
Europe," he said.

A recent tourism survey in the region showed that the occupancy rate
in star-rated hotels in the autonomous region had jumped from 6
percent in April to its current 38 percent. The number of overseas
tour groups arriving daily in Lhasa has also risen from five in July
to nearly 40, Yu said.

"We have also recently begun receiving tour groups from Southeast and
Northeast Asia," he said.
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