Tibet will "restrict" rather than "ban" foreign tourists from visiting the Tibet Autonomous Region during the National Day holidays, an official from Tibet Tourism Bureau told the Global Timeson Tuesday.
The official, surnamed Liao, countered an AFP report that China has barred foreigners from traveling to Tibet until after October 1 celebrations, saying "there will be restrictions for the entry but I cannot give details".
AFP reported that the passes for foreign travelers to enter Tibet would be suspended from September 24 to October 8, but travel agents reached by the Global Times said the suspension was already in place.
"Although we didn't receive official notice yet, we were told by the tourism bureau that we cannot transact the entry permits for foreign travelers from now till October 8," Liu Yong, a worker at Lhasa-based Heshun Sunshine Travel Agency, told the Global Times yesterday.
"The ban that officially goes into effect on Thursday started from Monday, according to the notice from the Tibet Tourism Bureau," AFP quoted a worker at the Tibet Youth Travel Service as saying.
"Many of my colleagues were planning to visit Tibet during this National Day holiday and they've already paid for tickets and hotels. Are they able to get refunds for these?" a foreigner complained on a shanghaiexpat.com forum yesterday.
The move is believed to be a temporary measure to intensify security ahead of the 60th National Day celebrations.
China has previously banned foreign tourists from visiting Tibet after riots took place in March 2008, but reopened it to foreigners as the situation got stabilized.
In the first eight months of 2009, Tibet received 4.09 million Chinese and foreign tourists, exceeding the previous record of 4.02 million in 2007, said Sun Yongping, vice director of Tibet Tourism Bureau, at a press conference last week.
Tourism revenue reached 3.235 billion yuan ($476 million), up 24.8 percent than that of the same period in 2008.