Tibet cuts ticket prices to boost tourism after riots: state media
Admission fees at most scenic and cultural spots will be cut by half from Monday to attract more travellers to the Himalayan region during winter, the official Xinhua news agency said. Plans to double admission fees to the Potala Palace, the former chief residence of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, have been scrapped, the report said.
Beijing barred all tourists from going to Tibet after a massive government crackdown on violence that erupted in Lhasa on March 14 against Chinese rule, and then spread to other areas of western China with Tibetan populations. Chinese tour groups were allowed back in at the end of April, and visitors from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan were subsequently given the green light to go early May.
Foreign visitors, however, were only allowed back in at the end of June. The number of tourists visiting Tibet in the first half of this year fell 70 percent from the previous year, according to state media. More than 340,000 travellers went to Tibet between January and June this year, the official Tibet Daily newspaper said, a dramatic drop from the same period in 2007 when over 1.1 million people visited.
It is the first time Tibet has reduced the price of tickets at nearly all its tourist attractions, Xinhua quoted Wang Songping, deputy director of the Tibet tourism bureau, as saying. Wang had predicted early this year that visitor numbers would hit five million in 2008, but the March riots and the subsequent government clampdown put a stop to that.
The Dalai Lama says over 400 Tibetans died in the crackdown in Lhasa alone, but China has reported police killing just one "insurgent" and blames Tibetan "rioters" for the deaths of 21 people.