Xinjiang Uygur region blunting unrest's impact on tourism

Source: Xinhua [16:28 September 09 2009]

Northwestern China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is organizing several cultural festivals to counteract the effects the July 5 riot and last week's syringe attacks scare have had on tourism, an official said Wednesday.

Yinamu Nesirdin, head of the regional tourism administration, said planned campaigns to boost tourism include an international poplar festival focusing on the Gobi landscape featuring the drought-enduring, diversiform leaved trees, and also on local sweet melon tastings.

Among other events are international photography festivals, a cultural festival in the Silk Road city of Qiuci, and a string of ice and snow festivals in Altay, Kanas and Tianchi Lake.

Nesirdin said the number of average daily visits received by major tourist destinations in Xinjiang plunged to 300 to 600 from pre-riot levels of 3,000-5,000.

The average occupancy rate of major hotels in the region dropped from 95 percent to 10 percent.

In the days after the Urumqi riot, 4,625 traveling groups canceled planned trips to Xinjiang, involving nearly 200,000 would-be tourists, he added.

To revive the local tourism industry, the regional government allocated 5 million yuan (about 730,000 U.S. dollars) to subsidize travel agencies who arranged tourist groups to Xinjiang from July 6 to Aug. 31.

Xinjiang's tourism administration has signed a contract with its counterpart in eastern China's Fujian Province to invite 10,000 tourists from the coastal area to visit the northwestern region in October.

On Sunday, the first large tourist group from southeastern Asiato visit the area since the riot began an 11-day tour to Xinjiang. The group of 76 from Singapore and Indonesia, is to visit Bole, Yining, Narat, Karamay and Kanas in the northern part of the inland autonomous region.