Tourists returning to Xinjiang

Source: [15:17 July 28 2009]

Tourism has been badly affected following the July 5th riot in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Three weeks after the incident, what used to be a popular travel destination is trying to get back on its feet so it will not miss the peak travel season.

Dancing to ethnic Uygur tunes is a major attraction for tourists. About an hour's drive from central Urumqi, the Tianchi Lake, or Heavenly Lake, is a place for relaxation for urban residents, and a must for travelers from outside of Xinjiang.

Dutch tourist Debbie Lewis said, "My impression of Xinjiang, very nice. Very clean, friendly people, really friendly people. Different cultures, good food, nice, scene is beautiful."

French tourist Jacqueline Torrecillas said, "So far, very good. I was a little worried to come after the problems three weeks ago. But I found that the situation is ok. I was reassured."

But the riot has indeed posed a threat to the tourism industry here. Thousands of trips were canceled. Government agencies are now trying to boost the industry by lowering admission fees and the cost of accommodation. So far, the measures have seen some results.

Chi Wenjie, director of Tianchi Tourism Admin., said, "Before the riot, we had more than 5 thousand visitors each day. But that number dropped to about 5 hundred after the riot. Now, we have 15 hundred on week days, and more than 2 thousand on Saturdays and Sundays."

But industry insiders admit the bigger challenge is boosting the confidence of tourist.

Aftab Ahmad is from Pakistan. He has been selling souvenirs in Urumqi for more than a decade. He is worried that his business will come under greater pressure if it takes too long for the whole tourism industry to recover.

Vendor from Pakistan Aftab Ahmad said, "Because this business belongs to the tourism industry. Tourists from other cities come and purchase things. Everybody is afraid, so no body come."

Aftab Ahmad considers himself a local Urumqi resident. He said he and his fellow vendors hope the government will do more to reassure people from outside the region so that more people will come to visit.