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No queues for tourists in Lhasa, China says

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Apr 14, 2008

BEIJING - The Tibetan city of Lhasa plans to focus on luring Chinese tourists this summer, in the wake of deadly rioting, a ban on foreign visitors and international protests over Beijing's policy in the region, state media said.

The official Xinhua agency took an optimistic look at the collapse of a key industry, saying that those who do make it to an area sometimes called "the roof of the world" will find it refreshingly free of tour groups.

"Tourists visiting the city these days will find that they needn't stand in line for the usually hard-to-get tickets for popular attractions," it reported from the city.

Tourism is a vital source of cash for the impoverished region, where 4 million tourists last year flocked to see historic temples, experience Tibetan culture and enjoy breathtaking natural scenery.

Visits had risen sharply since the July 2006 opening of the first rail link to Lhasa, and taken together the visitors outnumbered around 2.6 million residents.

Travel officials have frozen ticket prices for the summer season, when they can be twice winter levels, to try to attract more Chinese travelers, Xinhua said.

But ethnic Han Chinese were targets of an angry mob when monk-led protests in mid-March turned into a violent riot, and may be wary of returning to the Himalayan city in the short term.

The region will reopen to foreign tourists from May 1, Chinese official media has reported, although officials have not confirmed this and a U.S.-based rights group says Beijing does not plan to allow foreigners in until after the Olympics.

Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, of masterminding the riots and unrest as part of a bid for independence and with an eye to spoiling the Beijing Games. The Dalai Lama rejects the accusations and says he does not seek independence for Tibet.

No queues for tourists in Lhasa, China says

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