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Importance of tourist economy stressed

Source:China Daily Global 2023-07-07

Sangye, the owner of a traditional accessory shop at Barkhor Street in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region, experienced a boom in business lately thanks to a three-day expo that opened on June 16.

"I received so many more customers than usual. And I hope to bring more Tibetan products to tourists with the arrival of the peak summer season," Sangye said.

The three-day expo, officially called the fifth China Xizang Tourism and Culture Expo, is one of the most important events in Tibet. Nearly 1,000 businesses from home and abroad brought nearly 10,000 kinds of products for display in the 14,000-square-meter exhibition area.

Meanwhile, the expo served as a platform for promoting Tibetan culture to the world, focusing on featured products of Tibet, such as yak bone porcelain, plateau cooking utensils and yak cashmere clothing. Regional tourism was also promoted.

Losum Tsering displayed six types of highland barley beer at his booth. The Tibetan established a barley beer factory in 2018, combining the plateau staple food with American hops.

"Foreigners are interested in barley growing on 'the roof of the world' and my dream of selling my beer to the world is being realized at the expo," Losum Tsering said.

Nepalese craftsman Narayan brought copper pots, bowls and bottles to the expo. "This is my second time participating in the expo and I am proud to bring my family's traditional craft to Tibet," said Narayan, 38.

On her first-ever visit to Tibet, Chen Lijuan, from Southwest China's Chongqing municipality, brought handmade chocolates her company imports from Australia. She said she wanted to visit some famous tourist destinations in Lhasa.

"The Potala Palace is fully booked. I can only try my luck after the expo," said Chen, who managed to visit Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Street outside her tight schedule.

Tibet is rich in tourism resources, with its majestic mountains and rivers, magnificent grasslands and forests and profound ethnic and religious culture. Activities such as Nyingchi Peach Blossom Festival and Lhasa Shoton Festival — or yogurt banquet — have become known among tourists.

Sun Lu, a tourist from Beijing, spent 10 days in Tibet. She visited the Tibet Museum, had photos taken in Tibetan costumes and visited the expo.

"I didn't expect the region to be so fashionable and modern. I decided to look around the expo to find out more about Tibet," Sun said.

The region received more than 11.73 million tourist arrivals in the first five months of this year, a rise of nearly 45 percent year-on-year. This shows market vitality and strong recovery, the regional tourism development department said.

To make the region a world-level tourist destination, the central government and the regional government have been supporting the construction of tourism infrastructure and public service facilities. Together, they have implemented a number of major cultural protection projects over the years.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has been training local cultural and tourism managers, coordinating tourism design institutes to draft plans for villages in Tibet free of charge and organizing tourism operators from Tibet to participate in international expos.

A region-wide winter tourism promotion policy was implemented in 2018. It offered free admission to tourist attractions, including the Potala Palace, and government subsidies for hotels and other tourist spending items.

Indonesian scholar Hendy Yuniarto, a lecturer at the School of Asian Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said that sustainable tourism has played a crucial role in eradicating poverty in Tibet.

From a poor and backward serfdom to a socialist society, Tibet has been provided various resources throughout its transformation by the Chinese central government, including many preferential policies and tax reductions. All of these policies have helped to lift the region out of poverty and laid a solid foundation for the development of tourism, said Yuniarto, who recently visited Tibet.

Official figures show that Tibet received more than 157.6 million tourists from home and abroad from 2016 to 2020. It achieved a tourism income of 212.6 billion yuan ($29.34 billion) during the period. Both figures were 2.3 times and 2.4 times that of the previous five years, respectively. This had helped to lift 75,000 registered impoverished residents out of poverty.

Tibet used to be the only provincial-level contiguous poverty-stricken region in China. The region accomplished the historic feat of eradicating absolute poverty by the end of 2019, to the benefit of 628,000 people.

As tourism has become a pillar industry to promote leapfrog development, Tibet should strive to improve the level of tourism development and service management; promote the integration of tourism, culture and ecology; create an "upgraded version" of tourism and make every effort to build an important world-class tourism destination, said Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy.