China pushes Tibetan tourism while critics fear impact

China has unveiled a sparkling new hotel as part of its drive to get tens of millions more tourists to visit Tibet, even as critics say the push is slowly eroding the local culture.

Tourism officials are hoping to see visitor numbers increase by nearly 50 percent in the next four years, said Wang Songping, deputy director of the Tibet Tourism Development Commission.

Official figures say that Tibetans currently make up 90 percent of the local population, but groups opposed to Chinese rule say the real figure is significantly lower.

Wang said the number of Chinese tourists, who currently make up 95 percent of visitors to Tibet, has increased by an average of 20 percent each year since the 2006 opening of the first railway linking Tibet to the rest of China.

It currently has 40 employees, 15 of whom are Tibetan.

Less than 5 percent of visitors to Tibet are foreign tourists, who need to obtain an “entry letter” as well as a Chinese visa when traveling to the region, where they must join an authorized tour group.

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