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Tourists say they aren't afraid to travel in Xinjiang

By Mao Weihua and Zhao Lei (China Daily)

10:45, July 15, 2013

A businessman sells nuts at the Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar in Urumqi on July 11. (Photo/China Daily)

Although a succession of terrorist attacks has disrupted the tourism industry in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, many travelers said they do not worry for their safety and still wish to experience the region's culture and beauty.

"I really don't want to go back home because Xinjiang is incredibly beautiful, and the weather is pleasant," Jin Lingyu, a tourist from the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, said on Thursday at Tianshan Tianchi National Park. "Although my husband knew I was kidding when I said we should settle here one day, he actually suggested we consider moving after we retire."

The couple flew to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, on July 3 for their annual vacation and spent some time at the grasslands and lakes in the Ili Kazak and Bortala Mongolian autonomous prefectures.

"I know there have been terrorist attacks in the past few months and that some bad guys want to make trouble with the government, but I am not worried about our safety," she said, adding that "it is quite natural for a big country like China to have some annoying problems".

However, the local tourism industry has indeed been affected by the attacks, she added.

"In a market in the border city of Khorgas, I saw barely any tourists, and the vendors told me that their businesses were hugely affected by the recent incidents."

Terror slows travel

In April, 15 police officers and civilians were killed in terrorist attacks in Bachu county, Kashgar prefecture.

Another attack on June 26 in Lukqun township, Turpan prefecture, left 35 people dead. Two days later, a riot broke out in Hotan prefecture. The number of casualties remains unknown.

Prompted by the attacks, tourism departments in some provinces issued notices to residents, advising caution while traveling. And many tourists became hesitant to travel to the region due to security concerns, according to the regional tourism bureau.

More than 560 group tours and 31 meetings have been cancelled since late June.

In efforts to revitalize the tourism industry, the bureau has joined forces with other government departments and local tourism companies to ensure safe travel conditions.

So far, some travelers have visited the area despite concerns and have had positive experiences.

"I will go to Turpan, Ili and Kanas Lake in Altay," said Nan Xi, an 18-year-old from Zhejiang.

"Xinjiang food is delicious, the weather is cozy and local people are very friendly. I have not had any safety issues," she said.

Zhang Xiang, 23, who came to the region last week to visit relatives, said he plans to find a job in the region.

"After I land a job here, I will be able to travel around Xinjiang. Safety has never been a concern for me," he said. "I am thinking about going to Turpan now because the grapes are ripe. I will indulge myself with sweet grapes."

Anne Craig, from Scotland, said she just finished a sightseeing tour in Kashgar and has decided to spend at least two days in Urumqi.

"I've seen a lot of beautiful places in Xinjiang and met so many friendly people who were very nice and helpful."

Craig said she had heard of the terrorist attacks but does not worry for her safety.

Asel Kuzhakhmet, a businesswoman from Kazakhstan, said: "To be honest, I was a little scared when I watched the news about the incidents."

Kuzhakhmet said this is her fourth trip to Xinjiang.

"I am now feeling relaxed since I know the local government is able to protect us," she said. "And even if something bad happens, I am sure the police will do their best to ensure our safety."

Her confidence in Xinjiang is shared by a group of tourists and Chinese micro-bloggers who have launched an online campaign to support the region and its tourism sector.

The campaign, called "Xinjiang, here I come!" has attracted tens of thousands of Web users to post travel photos taken in Xinjiang, with some saying they want to show the world the treasures the region has to offer.

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