Chinese Official: New Rail Service to Lhasa to Bring About 4,000 Tourists Daily

July 26, 2007

About 4,000 tourists will arrive in Lhasa every day on the Qinghai-Tibet railway after it begins operation on July 1, according to a May 21 Xinhua report and a May 22 article in China News Agency. Liao Lisheng of the China Tibet Tourism Bureau (CTTB) said that tourist arrivals in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) would rise to about 5,000 to 6,000 each day, including the new rail travelers. CTTB expects that the railway will bring an additional 400,000 visitors to the TAR during the remainder of 2006, according to the China News Agency report.

Trains leaving Beijing, Chengdu, and Xining will reach Lhasa on a daily basis, and trains departing from Shanghai and Guangzhou will arrive in Lhasa every other day, according to a May 5 Xinhua article. The Xinhua report said that tickets for July 1 departures were already sold out. At this reported frequency of service, four trains should arrive in Lhasa each day, carrying about 1,000 passengers each. That figure is in rough agreement with a May 31 China Tibet Information Center report about the type of rail cars to be used on the inaugural trains to Lhasa. Each train will have four "hard seat" cars (98 passengers per car), eight "hard sleepers" (60 passengers per car), and two "soft sleepers" (32 passengers per car). The fourteen cars can accommodate a total of 936 passengers.

The news reports describe the passengers expected to use the new railway as tourists, visitors, or travelers. The CTTB's Liao estimates that a total of 20,000 hotel beds will be required in Lhasa if the 4,000 passengers arriving each day are tourists who stay in Lhasa an average of three nights. An October 2005 China Daily report, however, said that the government expects that the railway will "attract tourists, traders, and ethnic Chinese settlers" to the region. Official estimates are not available of the number of persons the government expects to arrive by train in Lhasa who intend to seek employment, conduct business, engage in a professional practice, or remain in the area for other reasons.

For more information about the Qinghai-Tibet railway and population issues, see Section VI. - "Tibet," Culture, Development, and Demography, of the CECC 2005 Annual Report.