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Official: Tibet forecasts five mln tourists in 2008

December 24, 2007

     LHASA, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Tibet is forecasting to receive at least
five million tourists in 2008, an official with the region's development
and reform commission said.

     Jin Shixun, director with the Commission, said Tibet expected a 25
percent increase in tourists next year. They would push tourism revenue
in the autonomous region to six billion yuan (about 800 million U.S.
dollars).

     The commission estimated earlier that the region, with a total
population of 2.8 million, would receive a record-high 4.02 million
tourists in 2007, a 64 percent increase year-on-year. Tourism revenues
were forecast at 4.8 billion yuan.

     Tibet's architectural icon, the Potala Palace, has received more
than one million tourists alone so far this year.

     Tourism is Tibet's main industry. The region received 2.5 million
tourists last year, earning 2.77 billion yuan in total tourism revenue.
This accounted for 9.6 percent of the region's gross domestic product.

     Jin attributed the surge in tourists mainly to the operation of the
Qinghai-Tibet Railway that was completed in July 2006.

     Statistics show that in the first full year of operation of the
railway to this past June, more than 1.5 million visitors, accounting
for over half of the total tourists, took the train to the region.
Another 1.4 million arrived by air.

     The 1,956-kilometer railway, built at cost of 33 billion yuan, was
the first railway to connect Tibet with the outside world.

     From July 2006 to June this year, a total of 1.5 million people had
come to Tibet by train. Among those, more than a half were tourists.
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