Tourism is booming in Tibet.
More and more Chinese are roaming the country because of the coronavirus epidemic, but it poses risks to the region’s fragile environment and historic sites.
“The biggest challenge for us is the conflict between ‘protection’ and ‘use’ of cultural relics,” said Gonggar Tashi, chief of the Potala Palace.
At the Potala Palace, the former home of the Dalai Lama, the number of visitors allowed per day is limited to 5,000.
Tash says balancing the demand for the millions of visitors who come there each year with the need to minimize the wear and tear of a massive mountain structure.
In 2020, there was a 12.6% increase in tourists compared to the previous year, said Ge Lai, vice president of the China Tourism Marketing Association.
He expects the number of visitors to almost double by 2026.
The overcrowding of visitors, which exceeds Tibet’s population of 3.5 million, means that care must be taken to protect the environment and culture, he said.
One of the most popular natural sites in Tibet is Lake Namzo, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, Buddhist shrines, and birds of prey and migratory birds.
Further development of the site should be done carefully so as not to damage what makes it attractive.
“It will be difficult to protect Tibetan ecology, culture, if we do not have a long-term plan,” he said. “Therefore, it is very important to establish a set of rules of conduct and values when building facilities for traveling in Tibet.”
As the country’s attention shifted to international visitors, Tibetans sometimes complained about Chinese tourists disrespecting cultural traditions, including stepping on prayer flags.
The shift came as China’s middle class grew, Yeh added.