World Travel Market
The vast majority of tourists visiting high-altitude Tibet are Chinese, but there are new drives to target wealthier western markets.
Chinese travel firms are well represented at this year’s World Travel Market event in London (5-7 November) as the country seeks to lure growing numbers of globe-trotting tourists. Among their key draw cards for the inquisitive traveller is Tibet – a land-locked country full of spiritual and environmental promise.
Tibet campaign groups, including Free Tibet, are concerned that travel firms are continuing to market the high-altitude destination – and its unrivalled 'pristine environment and culture' – while China’s 70-year hostile occupation of Tibet routinely undermines the human rights of indigenous Tibetan people.
On paper there may reason to celebrate Tibet’s tourism-driven economic boom with millions more visitors travelling there every year – but many Tibetans themselves are failing to see the benefits with trade monopolised by Chinese-dominated firms. More worryingly, many Tibetans argue that their culture is being re-packaged, demeaned and rendered safe for tourists by heavy-handed authorities.
The vast majority of tourists visiting high-altitude Tibet are Chinese, but there are new drives to target wealthier western markets. The World Travel Market comes as western travellers and tourists start planning mountainous spring-time adventures.
Following an uptick in demand for information from the travelling public Free Tibet has re-launched an area of its website offering travel advice alongside three compact PDF guides which accompany the relaunch.
“Over the years Free Tibet has received countless emails from people who have travelled to Tibet where they’ve seen its natural beauty. They’ve also reported being forbidden from much of the country as well – those areas cut off from the outside world by China. We really don’t want to tell people what to do, but we are urging people who want to see the real Tibet to access as much information as possible before deciding whether to visit or not,” said Free Tibet’s Campaign Director John Jones.
This story – which Free Tibet can assist in developing with any level of appropriate support – has multiple strands, including the following:
- Official Chinese statistics claim 2.67 million travellers visited Tibet from January to April 2018 with tourism revenue at US$549 million－a year-on-year increase of over 60 percent; A fifth of Tibet’s economy now relies on tourism
- Further figures state eight million tourists visit Tibet annually – in a country with an indigenous population of just 3.2 million
- Tourism-related infrastructure projects in Tibet continue apace: In 2006 the 3,400km-long Qinghai-Lhasa train opened – it is the world's highest railway; Another major train route – 1,600km in length – is currently being constructed from Chengdu to Lhasa
- Plans to further expand tourism in Tibet – often described by authorities as poverty alleviation schemes – have been linked to aggressive demolition drives as was witnessed during the destruction of the spiritual community of Larung Gar where 5,000 people were forcibly evicted from their homes
- Greater numbers of adventure tourists are approaching Mount Everest from its China-facing frontier (based in Tibet) following a series of safety concerns in Nepal
- Anger expressed by Chinese authorities in relation to any official listing of Tibet as a separate country was highlighted recently by the controversy surrounding Marriott’s China operations – which nearly cost the global hotel a sizeable chunk of its China business; the opening of a luxurious Hilton hotel close to Tibet’s capital Lhasa in 2012 prompted a global boycott campaign spear-headed by pro-Tibet pressure groups