The ancient Potala Palace in Lhasa, the Tibet autonomous region, attracts thousands of tourists and pilgrims every year, and they have to make reservations a few days in advance to get a ticket, especially during the peak summer season.
The Potala Palace in Lhasa, the Tibet autonomous region. (File Photo: VCG)
So it was a pleasure to learn that Tibet has suspended many fees for visitors during the five-month period of the region's winter tour campaign, said Xue Bin, a tourist from Chongqing.
"We came to Tibet at the right time. All tickets to visit the Potala Palace and other scenic sites in the region are free, and we only had to show our IDs to get the free entry," Xue said.
"It is my first time touring the region, it was a big surprise to us to get discounts in different areas. We also enjoyed the discount at the hotel while we were in the city of Nyingchi," the 61-year-old said.
Starting on Oct 15, the region launched a series of supportive policies, including free visits to Potala Palace and other national 3A-level or above tourist attractions, according to the region's tourism development department.
In addition, visitors also get a minimum discount of 50 percent when buying airline tickets, and a minimum discount of 50 percent for hotels of three stars and above in the region compared with prices during the peak tourism season.
The policies will be effective until March 15, according to the department.
Tibet attracts tourists from around the world. However, winter has been seen traditionally as a low season until the region launched the Travel to Tibet in the Winter campaign in February 2018.
For the last campaign, the region received 2.46 million domestic and overseas tourists during the winter tourism period — Nov 1, 2018, to March 15, 2019 — an increase of 84.2 percent year-on-year. Tourists spent nearly 2.62 billion yuan ($370 million), up 41 percent year-on-year, during the period, the department said.
As a result of the last two winter tourism campaigns, more and more people have learned about the policies. Department officials say they think this campaign will attract enough tourists that winter may no longer be seen as a low season for tourism.
Tian Kuigang, operator of Tibet Western Land Travel Agency, said the region's winter tour campaign contributed greatly to his business.
"I have been operating the travel agency for more than 10 years, and in the past, before the region launched the policy, I had to close all my businesses in the winter," he said.
"Offering discounts in various fields in the winter is a big attraction for visitors to tour the region in the low season, and it has helped reverse the region's problem of a withered tourism industry in the winter," said Tian.
Travel agencies that book tourist groups coming in on charter flights can receive government subsidies, according to Tian, including a 100,000 yuan bonus when its group tourists hit 1,000 or more.
The region saw more than 13 million domestic and overseas tourists in the first half of 2019, a year-on-year increase of 20 percent, and its travel revenue hit 14.93 billion yuan, up 19.8 percent year-on-year, the department said.