Tibet Opens to Foreign Tourists

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June 26 – Tibet reopened to tourists Wednesday, three and a half months after the Chinese government banned visits by foreigners in the wake of violent anti-government riots and protests.

The first group of foreign tourists, from Sweden, arrived at the Lhasa airport on Wednesday morning, said Tibetan Tourism Bureau spokesman Liao Lisheng.

“Tibet is open now to all travelers from home and abroad,” he said.

China threw a curtain around Tibet and areas in nearby provinces with sizable Tibetan populations after the March violence, citing the safety of foreign tourists and journalists.

But a notice on the bureau’s website said life in Lhasa had returned to normal, noting the June 21 torch relay “provided a more solid foundation for a stable society,” the Associated Press reported.

The IOC and China have both rejected calls for boycotts of the Beijing Games insisting that politics and sport should be kept separate, a principle Mr Zhang’s speech seemed to contradict.

Tibet had 4 million visitors in 2007, up 60 percent from the previous year, the official Xinhua News Agency reported earlier this year. Tourism revenues hit $687 million, more than 14 percent of the economy. The number of Chinese tourists coming to Tibet has risen dramatically since the opening of the province’s first railway, the world’s highest, two years ago. This year, the tourist authorities had been preparing for five million visitors this year, but instead had received little over 100,000, the Telegraph said.