Tibet sees Spring Festival tourism boom with favorable policies

More than 450,000 tourists visit during week-long holiday

The Spring Festival holidays saw a tourism boom in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region thanks to favorable policies.

More than 450,000 tourists from both home and overseas visited Tibet during the week-long holidays that ended Wednesday, a 48.2 percent increase compared with the same period last year and a tourist income of almost 300 million yuan ($47.4 million), the Tibetan tourism department was quoted by China News Service as saying on Friday.

Spring Festival, or Chinese lunar new year, coincided with the Tibetan new year on February 16.

Roughly 163,000 visitors stayed overnight in the region and 296,000 enjoyed a one-day tour, China News Service reported. Both numbers saw increases, the report said.

The Buddhist holy Namtso Lake had welcomed 3,811 visitors by Wednesday, a 550 percent increase from last year, China News Service said.

Tibet started the "Traveling in Tibet in Winter, Sharing the Third Pole" on Earth campaign on February 1, releasing preferential policies to attract tourists including free admission to 115 tourist attractions such as the iconic Potala Palace, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Discount fares for hotels, local transport and flights were also offered to tourists, the report said.

The campaign finishes April 30.

Tibet has been promoting winter tourism heavily since 2007. In winter, apart from visiting famous tourist attractions, people can also watch birds, enjoy hot springs and experience local culture and festivals, said the regional tourism development committee.

On December 6 last year, Lhasa Kongga International Airport saw 3.5 million travelers for the first time, official news website tibet.cn reported.

According to the China News Service report, in the past, Tibet saw fewer visitors in winter, and most tourist agencies halted service November-April.

"In winter the oxygen level is lower, as there are fewer green plants. Also it is very cold with many snows in the season, so tourists cannot visit every place," an employee at the Lhasa Travel Company told the Global Times on Friday. She did not give her full name.

"But this Spring Festival, you can see many more tourists in Tibet because of the discount policies," she said. "Also there is an increasing tendency of tourists in recent years."

Tibet Autonomous Region received a record 25.6 million domestic and foreign tourists last year, up 10.6 percent from the previous year, according to Xinhua.

For the past five years, total tourism revenue in the region topped 130 billion yuan and the region is expected to host 33 million tourists in 2018.