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Tibet sees record tourism despite restrictions

October 15, 2009

October 14, 2009

BEIJING -- A record 4.75 million tourists visited
China's Tibet in the first nine months of 2009,
more than twice as many as in all of 2008, when
unrest led to a ban on foreigners, state media said Wednesday.

The local government slashed the cost of holiday
packages, hotels and tickets to draw tourists
back to the picturesque Himalayan region, Xinhua news agency reported.

"It's a high point for Tibet's tourism industry,"
Wang Songping, deputy director of the regional
tourism bureau, was quoted as saying.

Wang said visitors to the Buddhist region
generated four billion yuan (586 million dollars)
in revenue in the January to September period.

During the eight-day National Day holiday this
month, Tibet received 295,400 tourists, Wang
added, without providing a figure for last year for comparison.

Xinhua did not provide a breakdown for foreign and domestic tourist numbers.

China banned foreign tourists from visiting Tibet
after deadly anti-Chinese riots erupted in Lhasa
and across the Tibetan plateau in March 2008.

The number of visitors to the region fell to 2.2
million in 2008 as compared with four million the year before.

Beijing also barred foreigners in March of this
year during the tense 50th anniversary of a
failed 1959 uprising against China that sent the
Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, into exile.

Foreign tourists must obtain special permission
from China's government to enter Tibet, where
resentment against Chinese control has seethed for decades.
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