LHASA, China (AP) — Tourism is booming in Tibet as more Chinese travel in-country because of the coronavirus pandemic, posing risks to the region’s fragile environment and historic sites.
The number of visitors is limited to 5,000 per day at the Potala Palace, the former home of the Dalai Lamas. Balancing tourist demand with the need to minimize wear and tear on the massive hillside structure is a constant challenge, said Gonggar Tashi, the head administrator.
“The biggest challenge for us is the contradiction between the protection and usage of the cultural relics,” Tashi told journalists in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.
He spoke during a government-organized tour that gave foreign journalists rare access to Tibet, but under the watchful eye of officials who set the agenda.
The growing numbers of tourists appear unconcerned by political controversies long circling Tibet. China’s communist forces entered the region in 1951, and the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s traditional spiritual and political leader, fled to India during an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
Millions of visitors come to Tibet every year, and 2020 saw a 12.6% increase from the previous year, said Ge Lei, deputy director of the China Tourism Marketing Association. He expects the amount of visitors to roughly double by 2026.
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