Published: 11:50, May 24, 2024
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Xizang vows to improve services in effort to attract foreign tourists
By Chen Meiling in Beijing and Daqiong in Lhasa
People visit the Potala Palace square in Lhasa, Southwest China's Xizang autonomous region, Feb 11, 2024. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

The Xizang autonomous region will open more international flight routes, enrich its inbound tourism routes and products, and improve entry, language translation and payment services to attract more international tourists to enjoy its magnificent natural landscapes and its rich and unique ethnic culture, said Xu Zhitao, vice-chairman of the autonomous region, at a news conference in Beijing on Thursday.

As a popular tourist destination, Xizang received 55.17 million visits by domestic and foreign tourists last year, up 83.7 percent year-on-year, and its total tourism revenue reached 65.1 billion yuan ($8.99 billion), a year-on-year increase of 60 percent, both hitting historical highs, data from local authorities showed.

When visiting Xizang, one can experience a variety of landscapes such as mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, grasslands, deserts and glaciers. Visitors can also witness majestic palaces, beautiful temples and uniquely styled residential buildings.

Xu Zhitao, vice-chairman of the Xizang autonomous region

Nearly 20,000 foreign tourists visited Xizang in 2023. The number of foreign visitors already topped 4,300 in the first quarter of this year, before the peak tourism season between May and October.

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"When visiting Xizang, one can experience a variety of landscapes such as mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, grasslands, deserts and glaciers. Visitors can also witness majestic palaces, beautiful temples and uniquely styled residential buildings," Xu said at the news conference, which was held by the State Council Information Office.

"In Xizang, one can hear the melodious sound of the zhanian, a unique local musical instrument, and the soothing tunes of pastoral songs. These experiences often bring unexpected surprises to travelers."

However, there are also challenges in promoting the growth of tourism such as issues related to the transportation infrastructure as well as the high costs and long time involved in transportation, and high altitude sickness, which make many visitors reluctant to come to Xizang, Xu said.

Inspired by the National Tourism Development Conference held in Beijing on May 17, Xizang will make its own development plan targeted at "constructing a series of world-class tourist attractions that embody Chinese cultural characteristics and represent national ecological civilization".

The region will further promote the integration of culture and tourism by developing immersive ethnic tourism experiences, establishing the Xizang culinary brand, promoting characteristic Tibetan medicine health and wellness products, and exploring deep experiential tourism such as high-altitude trekking and study tours, according to Xu.

It also plans to open more direct routes to mainland cities and international destinations, attract more investment enterprises to enter the culture and tourism market, improve the highland rescue mechanism, and strengthen market supervision, in order to provide visitors with a better service experience.

"We are confident that tourism can achieve double-digit growth this year as well," he added.

Besides tourism, Xizang is also accelerating the pace of opening-up in other areas.

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Last year, Xizang traded with 175 countries and regions, and its imports and exports reached a historical high of more than 10 billion yuan. The figure reached 2.8 billion yuan from January to April, up 201.7 percent year-on-year, according to local authorities.

More local products are being sold globally, said Yan Jinhai, the regional chairman. For example, Xizang exported 310 metric tons of mineral water to countries including Singapore, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In April, 23 tons of local apples were exported to Nepal, the first time that locally grown fruit has been exported abroad.

Highland barley, which can help lower blood sugar and soften blood vessels, is made into barley wine, biscuits, noodles and meal replacement powders, and exported to countries including Nepal and Canada.

"Opening-up is the only way for the high-quality development of Xizang. We are committed to expanding our 'circle of friends' in open cooperation," Yan said.

Contact the writers at chenmeiling@chinadaily.com.cn