China revokes visas to Tibet

April 3, 2008 6:51:40 PM PDT
The eyes of the world are now on China, as thousands will be traveling there for the summer games.

But if those tourists want to make a stop in Tibet, the Chinese government is now forbidding it. That decision has an economic impact here and there.

China is accepting applications for tourist visas, but there's one catch. Permits to visit Tibet are not being issued -- not since anti-Chinese riots broke out March 14th in Lhasa.

That has caused a major disruption in plans for tourists and tour operators.

"We're just kind of in a wait-and-see mode," said president of Geographic Expeditions Jim Sano.

Jim Sano is president of San Francisco's Geographic Expeditions, the country's largest tour organizer to Tibet.

Seventy-eight people have had their trips cancelled so far, and upcoming trips for about 25 others are in jeopardy.

Tibet tourism has grown dramatically since a new rail operation started two years ago. Five million visitors were expected this year, a 25 percent increase from last year.

The current ban will impact the income of the Tibetan people.

"Roughly 80 percent of what travelers pay us actually goes to our staff, our drivers, the people who run the hotels, provide the food, all the logistical support for our trips," said Sano.

Closing Tibet to foreigners also impacts climbers. The Tibetan face of Mt. Everest is considered the most dramatic side, and the best weather to summit Everest will be the next few weeks.

ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson made that ascent in 1992. He says there will be great disappointment if climbers can't go.

"If your window of opportunity is lost, which it will be for some of the world's best climbers this year, it's lost forever. It's literally taking away the pinnacle, the peak of your career," said ABC7 Legal Analyst Dean Johnson.

Tourists typically go to Tibet for eight to 30 days at cost OF $2,000 to $8,000.

There is late word that China might lift the travel restriction on Tibet around May 1st. However, travel operators say they're skeptical because that's about the time the Olympic torch is scheduled to make its ascent on Mt. Everest.


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