Tourism is booming in Tibet as more Chinese travel in-country because of the coronavirus pandemic, posing risks to the region's fragile environment and historic sites.
The number of visitors is limited to 5,000 per day at the Potala Palace, the former home of the Dalai Lamas. Balancing tourist demand with the need to minimize wear and tear on the massive hillside structure is a constant challenge, said Gonggar Tashi, the head administrator.
"The biggest challenge for us is the contradiction between the protection and usage of the cultural relics," Tashi told journalists in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.
Millions of visitors come to Tibet every year, and 2020 saw a 12.6% increase from the previous year, said Ge Lei, deputy director of the China Tourism Marketing Association. He expects the amount of visitors to roughly double by 2026.
Tourists are drawn to the "mystique and myth of Tibet as a remote snow-bound land," said Travis Klingberg, a cultural geographer at NYU Shanghai. "But Tibet has become a place of beautiful natural landscapes meaningful to the Chinese nation."