Over 4 million people visited the tiny country last year, meaning that the tourists out numbered the actual population of the country. This increased traffic has begun to put a strain on the infrastructure there, as roads and attractions became overly crowded with the influx of visitors.
This startling rise in tourist has led some to criticize the Chinese Government for valuing the monetary gains over the impact of those visitors on the fragile environment in Tibet. With early reports saying that income generated from tourism up 73% in 2007, it’s unlikely that we’ll see things change any time soon however. The government counters this by saying the increased revenue will actually help them to protect and restore tourist attractions, such as palaces and monasteries, in the long run.
This is an interesting dilemma for me. On the one hand, I love to travel, and there are a lot of places in the World I have yet to visit, but would still like to see, Tibet being one of them. But on the other hand, it’s becoming increasingly clear that tourism can be a bad thing for a country unless great care is taken to limit it’s reach and to promote sustainable tourism at every opportunity. China’s track record hasn’t been the best when it comes to these kinds of situations either. They care more about their growing economic power than their environment, and plans to build a road to Everest smacks of cashing in on the tourist dollar. Lets hope they don’t go too far in their exploitation and really do reinvest in the Tibetan infrastructure so that these incredible places will be there for future generations to enjoy as well.
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