Ti­bet travel to be­come eas­ier for for­eign­ers

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By PALDEN NYIMA in Lhasa and CUI JIA in Bei­jing

Over­seas tourists will find it eas­ier and faster to ap­ply for a travel per­mit to Ti­bet this year as the re­gional govern­ment makes ef­forts to boost tourism.

The Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion plans to cut the time for is­su­ing travel per­mits to over­seas tourists by half in 2019, Qi Zhala, chair­man of the re­gional govern­ment, said on Thursday. Now, it nor­mally takes at least 15 days to re­ceive the per­mits af­ter they sub­mit the re­quested doc­u­ments.

Ti­bet plans to brand it­self as the world’s “Third Pole” and hopes to at­tract 40 mil­lion vis­its from tourists this year by pro­vid­ing more con­ve­nient and friendly ser­vices as well as sig­nif­i­cantly im­prov­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity for vis­i­tors, Qi Zhala said in a govern­ment work re­port to the an­nual ses­sion of the re­gional peo­ple’s con­gress, which started on Thursday in Lhasa.

The re­gion re­ceived 33.68 mil­lion vis­its from tourists in 2018, an in­crease of 31.5 per­cent year-onyear, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Hong Wei, an of­fi­cial with the re­gional tourist devel­op­ment bureau, said the re­gion re­ceived more than 270,000 vis­its from over­seas trav­el­ers in 2018.

“The num­ber of over­seas tourists in Ti­bet has been in­creas­ing steadily in re­cent years as the re­gion has been more open to over­seas tourists,” he said.

Over­seas trav­el­ers need Ti­bet travel per­mits to visit in ad­di­tion to a Chi­nese visa. This ex­tra re­quire­ment is based on Ti­bet’s unique eth­nic tra­di­tions, cultural her­itage, re­cep­tion ca­pac­ity and eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion needs, of­fi­cials said.

Hong Wei said Ti­bet started draft­ing mea­sures to sim­plify the ap­pli­ca­tion pro­ce­dure last year, and they will be in­tro­duced as soon as pos­si­ble. Also, in­stead of hav­ing to send all ap­pli­ca­tion ma­te­ri­als to Ti­bet, over­seas tourists in the fu­ture will be able to ap­ply for per­mits in other cities like Bei­jing, Xi’an and Chengdu, he added.

Ti­bet also plans to build an in­ter­na­tional tourism co­op­er­a­tion zone in the Gangdise Moun­tain range, ac­cord­ing to the govern­ment work re­port. The zone in­cludes the sa­cred reli­gious des­ti­na­tions of Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar.

Pil­grims from the au­ton­o­mous re­gion and neigh­bor­ing coun­tries such as In­dia and Nepal be­lieve that walk­ing a full cir­cle around Kailash can bring pros­per­ity and pu­rify one of the sins of a life­time.

Ti­bet will strive to in­crease the num­ber of over­seas pil­grims vis­it­ing the re­gion by 50 per­cent in 2019, Qi Zhala said.

Ser­vice stops spe­cial­iz­ing in ac­com­mo­dat­ing the needs of over­seas pil­grims and tourists are also planned, Hong Wei said.

The re­gion’s GDP ex­ceeded 140 bil­lion yuan ($20.6 bil­lion) in 2018, up by about 10 per­cent year-on-year. It has set the an­nual GDP growth tar­get at about 10 per­cent this year, ac­cord­ing to the work re­port.

The re­gion also plans more open­ing-up mea­sures and im­prove­ments in con­nec­tiv­ity with South Asia. It plans to boost bor­der trade by more than 30 per­cent in 2019 and fur­ther de­velop its land ports, the re­port said.

“We’ll en­cour­age more peo­ple to get in­volved in cross-bor­der trade and ben­e­fit from it fi­nan­cially. We’ll also im­prove ser­vices at Gyirong port,” said Hu Hong, deputy head of Gyirong county, on the bor­der with Nepal.

Tser­ing, 38, has worked in cross­bor­der trade for over 13 years. “I can im­port more types of prod­ucts from more ports now, and the in­fra­struc­ture at ports has sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved,” he said. Tser­ing, like many in the re­gion, uses a sin­gle name.

Ten years ago, it took him 10 days to ship goods from Gyirong port to Lhasa by road. Now it takes only two days, he said.

HE PENGLEI / CHINA NEWS SER­VICE

For­eign tourists par­tic­i­pate in a lo­cal folk dance in Lhokha, Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion, in May.

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