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China to lure tourists to Tibet

BEIJING, January  5 – China has launched a campaign to attract three million tourists to Tibet this year, after deadly unrest saw a huge drop-off in visitors in 2008, state media reported on Monday.

The government\’s target is up from the 2.2 million tourists who visited the remote Himalayan region last year, but is still well down on the more than four million who travelled there in 2007, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Unrest broke out in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, on March 14 after four days of peaceful protests against 57 years of Chinese rule. The government immediately sealed off the region to tourists.

Authorities only allowed foreign tourists back in at the end of June.

The devastating earthquake in neighbouring Sichuan province in May, which caused a dramatic fall in tourists visiting there, also had an impact on Tibet\’s tourism industry, according to Xinhua.

Xinhua said the Ticapitalfmnewn government\’s campaign to lure three million visitors this year involved paying for a "bonus fund" for tourist operators, as well as stepped-up promotion activities.

The aim of the government\’s campaign is to "restore the safe, civilised and healthy image of Tibet as a tourist destination", Xinhua said.

Xinhua gave no other details about the fund or other incentives, or whether the efforts would target foreigners as well as domestic tourists.

However a report last week from the state-run Tibet Business News said local authorities had earmarked 50 million yuan (7.3 million dollars) this year to pay for promotions.

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It also planned to invest 350 million yuan during 2009 and 2010 to improve tourist infrastructure in the region such as road signs, transport hubs and toilets, the report said.

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