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Travel Agents Hope for Sales Boom
2006-08-11

Travel companies are hoping for profits as high as the Tanggula Mountains following the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

Two tour groups organized by the branch of China Tourism Service in Hong Kong will travel to Lhasa in the next two weeks. The travel agent is organizing another 10 groups, which are expected to arrive in Tibet this month, according to deputy general manager Wu Xi'an.

The greatest obstacle for tour operators is the difficulty in getting train tickets, said a manager at Modern China Travel Service Ltd in Hong Kong.

In Beijing travel agencies are promoting packages that combine air and rail travel. Tourists are recommended to take a flight to Xining, capital of Northwest China's Qinghai Province, and go on to Lhasa on a shorter, 26-hour train ride. On the way back most agencies arrange to fly directly from Lhasa to Beijing.

"The train runs 48 hours from Beijing to Lhasa not many people have the time to do that twice," said Wu Wei at Beijing Gold Dragon Travel Service Co Ltd.

"If they make a stop in Xining, they can visit Qinghai Lake, the largest saltwater lake in China," she added.

Eyeing opportunity, travel agencies in Xining are preparing packages including both Qinghai and Tibet. "We have been receiving a lot of calls from around the country since Friday morning," said Ma, a guide at the branch of China Tourism Service in Qinghai.

"Those who called us all asked if we can get them a train ticket from Xining to Lhasa. We have never been so busy."

"It is a historic moment for Xining," said Zhang Zhizhong, a local schoolteacher. "Everybody is looking for it on the map. The city has never been as famous as it is today."

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