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Tibet reopens to foreign tourists after month-long suspension  Apr 05, 2009

LHASA - Foreign tourists have begun entering Tibet as the region lifted a month-long suspension.

A total of 25 tourist groups will arrive in Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, Sunday.

More than 500 foreign tourists traveling with more than 200 groups are expected to visit Tibet before April 20, according to the Tibet Autonomous Regional Tourism Bureau.

The tourists are from the United States, Canada, France, Japan, Italy, Denmark and Australia- to name a few, according to the bureau.

Long lines of tourists could be seen at the entrance of the grand Potala Palace Sunday morning. Many tourists were busy taking pictures.

"We are receiving more foreign tourists now than any other time since March 14 last year," said Liu Mingzan, manager of the Tibet Qamdo International Travel Agency, referring to the date of the violence in the regional capital Lhasa last year.

Liu said his travel agency will receive five foreign tourist groups in the next few days.

"We are fully prepared for more tourists," he said.

A German group of 11 tourists arrived in Lhasa Saturday night and began its six-day visit in this southwest China region. It is the first foreign tourist group allowed in Tibet after the government announced it would reopen local tourism to foreign visitors a week ago.

"I have been preparing for the trip since last year," said a German tourist named Nick. "The places I want to go most are the Potala Palace and Mount Qomolangma."

"I have little worry about the safety here in Lhasa, where everything appears normal," he told Xinhua. "The Tibetans I have met are very hospitable, which makes me feel at ease."

His tour group will visit scenic spots including the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple, Mount Qomolangma, and the Norbu Lingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama. It will leave Tibet for Nepal Thursday.

Bachug, head of the tourism administration of Tibet Autonomous Region, said Tibet suspended visits by foreigners in March for the sake of travelers' safety.

"Tibet is harmonious and safe now. Travel agencies, tourist resorts and hotels are prepared for tourists," he said.

Tibet reopens to foreign tourists after month-long suspension
German tourists pose for a photo in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa / Image via Xinhua/Chogo

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