By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Dec. 31: The capital city of Tibet, Lhasa is set to be the only International city on the Tibetan plateau in the next five years as prescribed at the Lhasa Tourism Development Conference held on Dec. 28, reported China Tibet Online.
According to data released at the conference, from 2010 to 2015, the total revenue from tourism reached 15.493 billion Yuan (2.389 billion U.S. dollars) which is expected to increase to more than 30 billion Yuan (4.626 billion U.S. dollars). In the next “Five-Year Plan” period from 2016-2020, the city will invest 100 billion Yuan in promoting tourism. High-end brands and commercial complexes are set to occupy the city landscape.
The concerned authorities have put forth proposals to join in the World Tourism Cities Federation and the Asia-Pacific Tourism Association and also apply to be an UNESCO intangible cultural heritage ancient city in the next five years.
Exile Tibetans argue that the development of infrastructure in Tibet has come at a price, and often the Tibetans are the ones who get neglected by the fruits of such development. “All positive bearings from such an initiative are reserved for Chinese investors and workforce; the infrastructure caters to a select credit card yielding groups, revenues will vanish into Chinese investor’s pocket and the opportunities and jobs created by such initiative go to ethnic Chinese work force. Yet the dire outcome of these developments such as increased cost of living, unemployment and other means of marginalization are dealt mostly by Tibetans,” said Tsering, a Tibetan from Lhasa who arrived into exile in 2001.
In a similar developmental plan by China at the beginning of next month, Lhasa’s neighbouring Tagtse (ch. Dazi), Lhundrub (ch. Linzhou), and Meldro Gongkar (ch. Mozhugongka) Counties, traditional Tibetan dwellings will be replaced by Chinese styled houses. The cost of which will be borne by Tibetan homeowners who are without any say in the decision.
The 2013 project to modernize the Bharkor market area in Lhasa city attracted condemnation from organizations and people around the globe. Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser called it a ‘frightful modernization’. “Lhasa is being destroyed by excessive commercial development. Lhasa doesn’t exist for only tourists, there are real people who live here and it’s also a religious place. You can’t just turn it into a Sanlitun village,” the Beijing based Tibetan writer told the South China Morning Post in 2013.
Fast food chain KFC will open its first ever outlet in Lhasa at downtown mall Shenlishidai Square shopping centre from January 2016.
Lhasa Tourism Development projects an increase in tourist numbers from 11.79 million in the last five years to a staggering 24 million just domestically.