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08:55 Dec 12 2008

Yogurt festival marks Tibet's post-Games boom
14:02, December 10, 2008  

Tibet stands to gain from a post-Games tourism boom, which coincides with the region's grandest annual festival, local officials have said.

Foreign tourists who have enjoyed the capital's historical sites and folkways during their Olympic visit might now seize the opportunity to see the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau while exploring the country's vast landscape, Tanor, deputy director of the Tibet tourism administration, said at a press conference in Beijing on Monday.

The number of tourists to the Tibet autonomous region is expected to reach its peak in September, starting with the annual Shoton (Yogurt) Festival, on Saturday, Tanor said.

"We are expecting more foreign tourists to the festival than in previous years as the festival coincides with the break between the Olympics and the Paralympics," he said.

The seven-day festival originated 1,000 years ago, when nomads and farmers offered yoghurt to monks ending their annual summer meditation retreat, and reached its zenith in the 17th century.

This year's celebration consists of activities that include the staging of grand Tibetan dramas and a giant thangka displaying ceremony, Tashi Phuntsog, director of the festival organizing committee, said.

Nearly half a year after the riots here that rocked the nation, the city's shattered tourism has gradually picked up, and tourism is on the rise once more.

Since the autonomous region reopened to domestic tourists on April 24 and to overseas tourists on June 25, the number of tourists has steadily climbed, according to Tibet tourism administration statistics.

The March 14 riots dealt a severe blow to the region's tourism. The region received only 16,000 tourists in April.

But numbers jumped to 96,000 in June and to 350,000 in July, which is "equal to the total of tourists in Tibet in the first six months this year," Yu Yungui, the top official of the administration, said in a recent group interview.

"At present, most domestic tourists are non-group tourists while 70 percent of overseas tourists here are from the United States or Europe," he said.

A recent tourism survey in the region showed that the occupancy rate in star-rated hotels in the autonomous region had jumped from 6 percent in April to its current 38 percent. The number of overseas tour groups arriving daily in Lhasa has also risen from five in July to nearly 40, Yu said.

"We have also recently begun receiving tour groups from Southeast and Northeast Asia," he said.

Source: China Daily

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