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June 8, 2012

China bans tourists from visiting Tibet after spate of self-immolations

     Beijing: China has asked foreign travel agencies not to issue entry permits to Tibet following a spate in self-immolation by Tibetans. According to Free Tibet, a campaign promoting Tibetan independence from China, there have been more than 30 self-immolations since March 2011, ABC News reports. Most recently, on May 27, 2012 two Tibetans were the first to set them on fire in Lhasa, Tibet's tightly controlled administrative Capital. The shutdown also coincides with the Saga Dawa festival, which celebrates the Buddha's birth and draws many Buddhists to Tibet . The closure has come as a shock to tourist agencies. According to Nellie Connelly, marketing director of WildChina, a prominent travel company that regularly coordinates trips to Tibet , said that Chinese authorities informed the company in mid-May that travelers would only be allowed to visit Tibet in groups of five people of the same nationality. Last week, the government stopped issuing entry permits to Tibet altogether. Following China 's ban, the loss of income for Tibetan communities will be significant. Tibet received 21.25 million domestic and foreign tourists in between 2006 and 2010, generating 3.58 billion dollars in income for the country. Tourism is a staple of the region's economy. Tibet set a goal to increase tourism revenue between 2011 and 2015 to more than 20 percent of its gross domestic product. Beijing 's recent actions will make reaching 2012 targets difficult.
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