China says Tibet to be reopened soon for foreign tourists

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Beijing – Tibet would reopen to foreign tourists in the “near future”, an official said today over a month after the Himalayan region was sealed to quell the most violent anti-China protests in two decades.

The first domestic group had arrived on Thursday in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, where monks-led protests took a bloody turn on March 14, leaving 19 people dead, and leading to a security clampdown.

“We are going to receive overseas tourist groups in the very near future,” Deputy Director of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Tourism Bureau, Zhanour was quoted as saying in Lhasa by state-run Xinhua news agency.

Tourists need not worry about their safety in Tibet, he said, adding, “Tibet will keep its image as a safe, healthy and civilised tourist destination”.

The regional government had stopped issuing tourist permits to foreigners and tourist authorities had advised travel agencies to defer organizing tour groups, citing safety concerns and reconstruction of tourist facilities damaged in the riots.

Tourism, a main source of revenue for Tibet, had taken a beating following the riots but the region still received 130,000 tourists in the first quarter, including 124,200 domestic tourists and 5,900 foreigners, a rise of 9.9 per cent and 59.8 per cent over the previous year respectively.

The world famous Potala Palace was reopened to tourists on March 26.

Religious activities had returned to normal in monastries in Lhasa, Tubdain Cewang, Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People’s Congress, claimed last week.

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