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June 7, 2012

Tibet to receive more air traffic

     Lhasa (Tibet): Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region is set to receive increased air traffic, as the Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) of China agreed on Thursday to encourage airlines to offer more flights to the region. The CAAC and the Tibet regional government agreed at a Thursday meeting to encourage air travel companies to establish more routes linking the regional capital of Lhasa with Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, as well as several southeast and west Asian countries. Li Jun, deputy director of the CAAC, said applications for new air routes linking Tibet with other countries will be encouraged in order to boost the growth of Tibet's air passenger volume. Li said there are currently 32 routes run by six airlines linking Tibet with the outside world. The only international destination among the routes is the city of Katmandu in Nepal . Li Haiying, general manager of Sichuan Airlines, said the company hopes to open new flights linking Lhasa with Nepal , Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the future. Tibet was once regarded as a difficult area to fly in because of its complicated geographic conditions and unpredictable weather. However, air transportation in Tibet has retained double-digit growth over the past five years. Figures from the CAAC's Tibet bureau indicate that more than 672,000 passengers traveled in or out of the region by air in the first five months of the year, a 25-percent year-on-year increase. Tibet 's government chief Padma Choling said at the Thursday meeting that Tibet is striving to build itself into an international tourist destination, with a goal of drawing 15 million visitors annually by 2015. "The target has created much higher demands for Tibet 's air transportation development," he said. Local authorities on Thursday also agreed on a set of airport expansion and upgrading projects in Tibet . The regional government has stepped up efforts to upgrade its infrastructure and optimize its transportation network in order to cater to the rising demand generated by booming tourism. Construction on new two airports in Tibet 's remote Nagquand and Nyingchi areas is underway. Meanwhile, two railways currently under construction are set to link Lhasa with the city of Xigaze and Nyingchi county. Nearly 5,000 km of new highways were opened in Tibet in 2011, with the region's first expressway, which links Lhasa with Gonggar Airport, going into operation last year.
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