Tourism in Tibet

Tibet Watch’s report on Tourism in Tibet is a shocking revelation of the conduct of tourists in Tibet and the development of Tibet as a ‘theme park’ by the Chinese Authorities where the Tibetans are arrayed before the tourists cameras and photographed in a highly intrusive and aggressive manner.  These scenes are as disturbing as scenes of outright violence.

Tourism in Tibet China has discovered that Tibet is a valuable asset as a unique tourist attraction of an anachronistic and historical way of life.  From the point of view of the state:

…it is also a lesson in contrasting the backward condition of Tibet, with the wonderful benefits conferred on Tibetans, who have been liberated by the Chinese.

Today, the overwhelming majority of tourists in Tibet are Chinese.  According to the Chinese government 3.43 million tourists visited Tibet in the first half of 2013.  This is not only 20% more than the previous year, but more than the population of Tibet (Tibetan Autonomous Region) itself.  Of these only 30,306 were overseas visitors.  The numbers are expected to reach 15 million a year by 2015.

There are different regulations controlling the movements of Chinese, Tibetans and foreigners in Tibet.  Tibetans even have difficulty entering the capital Lhasa.

In recent years the Chinese government has graduated from re-writing history to rebuilding it.  A replica of the Potala Palace has been built on the outskirts of Lhasa which stages a show telling the story of the Chinese princess Wencheng who married the King of Tibet in the 7th century.  This marriage forms part of China’s historic claims to Tibet as well as providing a tourest interest.

This ‘Disneyfication’ of Tibet i.e. the act of transforming historical places, local customs etc, into trivial entertainment for tourists is, the report says, an accurate description of what is occurring in Tibet today.  The report’s only hope for an improvement in the situation is that of on-line cultural resistance but so far that is minimal.  But we hope this resistance will grow with greater awareness both within and outside of China of this latest move ro erode Tibetan culture.