New Delhi, Jun 25: Tibet will reopen to foreign tourists today with the arrival of two Swedes. Four Singaporeans are expected in Lhasa on Sunday. Tanor, deputy director of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Bureau of Tourism, said Tibet has been re-opened to domestic tour groups since April 23, followed by visitors from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan in May. "As of June 20, the region had received more than 160 tour groups," he added. "The tourists experienced by themselves the stable situation, harmonious society and beautiful environment in Tibet. The success of the Olympic torch relay held three days ago in Lhasa demonstrated that the foundation for the social stability has been further consolidated," Xinhua quoted Tanor, as saying.
On Tuesday, June 24, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters in Beijing that Tibet would not change the policy of opening-up. The regional government stopped issuing tourist permits to overseas travellers and the tourism authorities suggested travel agencies postpone organizing tour groups in the wake of the riots in March this year. It cited safety concerns and the reconstruction of tourism facilities around scenic spots damaged in the unrest.
Independent domestic travellers have not been prohibited from entering the region. The riot led to the deaths of at least 18 civilians and one policeman. It also left 382 civilians and 241 police officers injured, businesses looted and residences, shops and vehicles torched. Tibet received four million tourists from both home and abroad last year, up 60 percent from 2006. Tourism revenue reached 4.8 billion yuan (699 million dollars), accounting for more than 14 percent of the region's gross domestic product.
In the first two months of this year, the tourism business grew robustly in the region, greeting 110,000 tourists, including 6,000 from overseas, up 60 percent from the same period a year earlier. The March, April and May figures were not immediately available. Before the riot, the regional government had expected the number of visitors to increase by 25 percent year-on-year to hit five million in 2008, and tourism revenue to increase by 24 percent to reach six billion yuan (873 million dollars).