BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s top tourist destinations received a record number of visitors during last week’s Golden Week holiday, the government said on Monday, with Olympic venues major draws.
But visits to Tibet dropped 36 percent, which a tourist official blamed on unrest in the region in March.
The National Tourism Administration said more than 18.29 million people visited 119 major tourist destinations around the country over the holiday, up 13.2 percent on last year.
Beijing, host of the Summer Olympics in August, was one of the hottest destinations, with visitors up 35 percent from last year.
Visitors to the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing during the first six days of holiday were up 78 percent, according to the Beijing News.
The Ministry of Commerce said retail sales during the Golden Week exceeded 420 billion yuan ($61.3 billion), up 21 percent from last year.
Golden Week holidays refer to week-long breaks over Chinese New Year, in January or February, and over National Day on Oct 1.
The Olympic Green, home to the Bird’s Nest stadium and Water Cube Aquatics Center, attracted 2.17 million visitors during the first six days of the holiday.
Tibet’s tourist arrivals dropped 36 percent and only 110,900 tourists stayed overnight, a drop of 41.5 percent from a year earlier, Xinhua state news agency said.
“Comparing this year’s Golden Week holiday with that of last year, there were notable decreases in terms of tourist arrivals and relevant earnings as a result of the March 14 Lhasa unrest,” a local official was quoted as saying.
Tibet was rocked by protests in March, blamed by China on exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing labels a separatist. He denies the charge.
China’s crackdown on the unrest drew widespread international criticism and led to disruptions to international legs of the Olympic torch relay.
(Reporting by Beijing Newsroom and Nick Macfie’ Editing by David Fox)