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TOURISM PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT IN TIBET Potala Palace, Lhasa Dr Trevor Sofield Foundation Professor of Tourism University of Tasmania Australia
PREFACEWhile this presentation is focused on tourism policy and planning for the TibetAutonomous Region of China, it is also a refutation of generally held Western viewsabout Tibet. For the vast majority of westerners the only perception they holdof Tibet is derived from interviews by the Dalai Lama, who makes a widerange of claims about conditions inside a country which he has not visited infifty years. As with anybody who has not been „home‟ for 50 years suchviews will inevitably be out of date. He enjoins people to visit Tibet to seefor themselves that he is talking the truth – but I cannot find the Tibet hedescribes! Part I Mount Namchak Barwo
PREFACEThis presentation might thus be sub-titled: :This presentation might thus be sub-titled:
IntroductionIn June/July 2008 I made my ninth visit in 8 years to Greater Tibet and the Tibet AutonomousRegion (T.A.R.). Each visit has been a research planning exercise designed to gather data andundertake analyses for the development of appropriate forms of ecotourism and cultural tourismfor Chinese (domestic) and International visitation. This has given me first-hand an in-depthknowledge and understanding of the T.A.R. and its people. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
The Dali Lama contends that China is practising cultural genocide on his people.Yet the Chinese Government has a transparent policy of opening up Tibet and its culture forthe whole world. Their objective is the opposite - to conserve not destroy Tibetan culture andpromote it to the world.Further, the Tibetan Tourism Bureau recently issued a booklet (2008) for all Chinese visitors toTibet on Tibetan etiquette, customs and culture and how to behave in order not to beinsensitive. This is not the sort of publication one would expect following the assertions by theDalai Lama to the contrary.The very reason for my visits to T.A.R. has been to assist in these endeavours. Buddhist Festival, Changda, 2008 Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania Australia
IntroductionPrevious outcomes have included a tourism master plan for the „Greater Shangri-la Region‟(which encompasses the Tibetan communities of northern Yunnan Province, western SichuanProvince and Eastern Tibet), and various tourism plans for Tibet itself. At the highest politicallevel, a major commitment, supported by more than US$20 billion, has been made for theeconomic development of China‟s western provinces (the Western Development Plan) becauseof their relative under-development compared to the booming eastern coastal provinces. Tibetand Tibetans are beneficiaries of this national intervention.The objective of the latest visit was to develop a Master Tourism Plan for Linzhi Prefecture insouth eastern Tibet. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
TOURISM PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT IN TIBET TIBETAN PLATEAU LIN-ZHI HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINS Satellite photo of Tibet (NASA web site)
Objectives: A major component of the most recent exercise was to focus on Tibetanecology and culture to advise on appropriate forms of development that would safeguardand retain the integrity of Tibetan traditions and the environment to the greatest possibleextent for international visitors and Chinese alike. The Master Plan is being formulatedunder the auspices of the China National Tourism Administration, a key aim of which is topromote Tibetan culture. In this context, as with all previous field trips, I found a resilient,dynamic living culture being expressed and manifest on a daily basis in literally hundreds ofdifferent ways. The total integration between Tibetan culture and their biophysicalenvironment thus lends itself to holistic forms of ecotourism development that have thecapacity to benefit local communities directly. Yang Zhou Yong village Ba-rang Village Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
The Dalai Lama asserts that the Chinese Government is destroying Buddhisttemples, closing their teaching institutes and preventing Tibetans from practisingtheir religion.But I have witnessed major rebuilding of temples all over Tibet (many were damagedduring the Cultural Revolution) and they are vibrant with active discipleship andteaching.
Touring route developmentThe scenery in south eastern Tibet is stunning. When the area is opened to internationalvisitors the route we took will I believe become one of the most spectacular touring routesanywhere - towering snow capped peaks adorned with numerous glaciers, deepperpendicular gorges, thick old-growth forests in the lower altitudes, windswept grasslandson the plateau, picturesque villages occupying tiny fragments of arable land among thepeaks and gorges, and a vibrant Tibetan Buddhist culture all around! „First Bend‟ of the Yangtze River Mount Gyala Belri Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
Yarlung Tsampo (Brahmaputra) River Silong Glacier
“The Roof of the World” - Mila Mountain and pass, 5,424metres. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
I have witnessed, on a daily basis, literally hundreds of acts and aspects of Tibetan culture in allits forms and variety. I have spent weeks at a time immersed in an extremely vibrant anddynamic culture that is Tibetan first, Tibetan second and Tibetan last. I have spent many hoursin more than 100 monasteries and temples where monks, nuns and pilgrims have practisedtheir beliefs and carried out their religious activities without hindrance. The development plansubmitted for the pilgrimage town of Chamdo in central eastern Tibet, home of perhaps themost famous Yellow Hat sect Buddhist teaching monastery in Tibet with currently more than2000 resident monks, Qiangbaling, provides such an example. Chamdo is surrounded by eightancient monasteries and temples located high up in the surrounding mountains, each one atthe end of a road that radiates out from Chamdo like the spokes of a wheel. Each templerequires a full day in 4WD vehicle to reach and return to Chamdo. Qiangbaling Monastery and temples Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
This configuration lends itself to a classical hub-and-spokes cluster development and theconcept incorporated in our Tourism Development Plan utilises the Tibetan prayer wheel orcircle of life to emphasize the cultural richness of the experience. Each day trip to the ancienttemple at the end of the road combines a range of nature based experiences that focus on avillage or villages en route so that ecotourism in its holistic form constitutes the foundation ofour planning. For example, the trip to the 8th century Garma Temple passes the village ofRidung, famous for traditional Tibetan herbal medicines where there is a thriving cottageindustry; Wami, a craft village famous for its metal workers who make Buddhist idols and otherstatuary for temples all over Tibet; and Wazai which hosts families of „thanka‟ artists whospecialize in producing traditional paintings and art works for temples and monasteries. Thevillage of Dorje is located above a fast flowing stream ideal for kayaking and rafting, and thereare many potential wilderness walks into the mountains along the entire route to Garma on yakor pony (or on foot) with local guides and home-stays, including a high alpine forest ofrhododendrons and conifers that are home to at least one large troop (more than 250members) of long tailed Tibetan macaques.
Dr Trevor Sofield,Annual installation ceremony for graduation of new monks, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Qiangabling Monastery, Chamdo Australia
Diagram showing the hub-and-spokes relationship of Garma Chamdo to the Templesurrounding temples. Chajima There is no linking Jiuzhaotse Monastery Monasteryroad between any of the temples which are separated byvery high mountains, CHAMDO deep valleys andswift flowing rivers. Dalak temple Chaya Temple Wa La Monastery Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, Buddhist wheel of life University of Tasmania, Australia
Cluster Planning: The Spokes Chaya GARMAJiuzhaotse Monastery CHAMDO Dalak Monastery Chajima Monastery Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Wa-La Monastery Australia
Hub-and Spokes Cluster – en route community development Each of the Chamdo „spokes‟ could be developed over a period of time as an en route attraction, as exampled by the route to Garma Temple: CHAMDO Attractions en route Tourism Type Dechen Patsun Tibetan religion, built Holy Mountain heritage, living culture, forests, nature & eco-tourism Ridung Tibetan traditional Traditional heritage, living culture Medicine village River recreation Ecotourism Wazai Tibetan rural way of life, Handicraft Centre artefacts, living culture Master artist’s Tibetan religion, religious village art, living culture GARMA TEMPLE Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
Pilgrimage: Among many other examples of cultural diversity visible all over Tibet are thehundreds, perhaps thousands of pilgrims on trails and roads all over Tibet slowly and arduouslymaking their way to Lhasa, prostrating themselves full length on the ground, rising, taking threepaces forward, and lowering themselves to the ground again to stretch out to the full, an actionrepeated thousands and thousands of times, on journeys that may take two or more years. Wecame across one group of pilgrims who had been on the road from Chengdu, Sichuan (wherethe recent earthquake was) for 2 years, a baby had been born on the way - and they had anAustralian budgerigar in a cage!!!! (Of which I have a photo of course!). Another old couple -both in their 60s - let me pull their handcart up and over a pass at 4,884 metres! (I wasinterested to see how heavy it was). Another family group had two or three family members ata time prostrating themselves along the road for 2-to-3 kilometres and then being replaced byothers relay-team style. Their hand cart was adorned with solar cells and a battery – there isno firewood at high altitudes of course, often no yak or cattle dung as an alternate fuel, and soto boil the water for their yak butter tea, they had an electric kettle! The hand carts contain atent, spare clothing, a few pots and pans and not much else. To protect their hands and chestsfrom abrasions as they prostrate themselves full length on the ground they wear wooden padsstrapped to the palms of their hands and a heavy yak leather apron. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
On the road 400kms from Lhasa Dr Trevor Sofield,Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia Pilgrims approaching Jorkhang Temple, Lhasa
Pilgrim‟s handcart with solar panelPilgrims on Mt Meli pass Pilgrims with budgerigar in cage Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
In terms of the integration of culture and environment, mountains in all forms of Tibetan Buddhism are sacred, every high mountain pass in Tibet is regarded as sacred, and every pass is adorned with literally thousands of Buddhist prayer flags and silk scarves. Buddhist belief is that as each flag flutters in the breeze the prayer that is printed on it drifts on the wind and blesses all those who feel the movement of the air. The scarves, hadah, are exchanged in welcome ceremonies and in numerous other Buddhist rituals as a symbol of peace and good wishes. At all mountain passes every Tibetan traveller stops to add more flags and scarves – and nowadays, busloads of Chinese and other travellers engage in the same action. In some places the fabric is metres thick. The thousands of torn and faded flags and hadah as well as brand new ones indicate that the practice has been continuing for a long time. In addition to prayer flags, piles of inscribed mani stones and tablets far more numerous than the many thousands of temples dot roadsides, hillsides, riversides and other sites imbued with a spiritual essence and are constantly added to, repainted and/or reinscribed. Often the skulls of yaks are also inscribed with a Buddhist mantra and added to a pile of mani stones. This continuing daily activity all around Tibet is inconsistent with claims of cultural genocide by the Dalia Lam.!Every mountain is sacred and every pass is adorned with thousands of prayer flags
Sacred mani stones. Some are new, many ofthem hundreds of years old.
A living culture: I have seen Tibetans going about their daily life ploughing their fields withyaks while chanting the ubiquitous “Om-ma-ni-pad-ma-ni-om” as a prayer of forgivenessbecause every turn of their plough is killing animals and insects in the soil in violation of theBuddhist precept of never taking life in any form. Of women climbing cliff faces to place prayerflags and juniper twigs in „worship power places‟. Of families tending their herds of yaks, goats,sheep, donkeys and horses, milking them, weaving their wool, making yak butter, harvestingbarley in the lower valleys, making leather pouches, carving wooden saddles – not actorsmuseumized for tourists in traditional fancy dress, not Sinicized to destroy their culture, justliving as Tibetans have lived for centuries – but sometimes with electricity from micro-hydroschemes to light and warm their homes!
Bilingualism: In terms of support for the Tibetan language and traditional script, officialsignage is all bilingual. Directional road signs, national nature reserves, government buildings,clinics and schools, even government ministry vehicles, all display both Tibetan and Chinese.Some signs were very old judging by the rust and faded colouring, some were brand new, butcombined they indicated that it has long been a policy of the Chinese Government to producebilingual signage and not in response to criticism arising over China‟s hosting of the OlympicGames. In the village schools that I visited hundreds of kilometres from the town of Nyingchi,the teaching medium is often in Tibetan for the simple reason that that is the only languagewith which the teachers can communicate with their pupils. The children learn Chinese, as wellas Tibetan, just as Chinese students in many parts of China also take a second language,often English. Once we left the two small cities in this part of Tibet, we needed Tibetantranslators because many of the local authorities and most of the people could not talkChinese. In short, I found a resilient use of Tibetan and a vibrant bilingualism that helps tounderpin the cultural foundations of Tibetan-ness, in stark contrast to the claim by the DalaiLama that the Chinese are banning the use of Tibetan.. Grand Canyon National Park signage – Tibetan on one side, Chinese on the other.
This sign, located below alandslip on a hillside near Bacang, carries a clear conservation message inboth Tibetan and Chinese: Carry Out the “Save the Environment Project” to benefit future generations. The date is recorded asMarch 2001 and the area is surrounded by a large reafforestation project.
China experiences four major tourist flows, each of which has significantlydifferent characteristics that planning must take into account. The needs andexpectations of Chinese domestic tourists (by far the largest market) are quitedifferent from those of „Overseas Chinese‟, which in turn are different frominternational Asian visitors (Japan, Korea, Thailand, etc), which are again quitedifferent from those of international western country travellers.My focus as part of the team was to contribute to proposals for the internationalwestern countries‟ segment of the market, particularly ecotourism and culturaltourism. A major characteristic of this market is that Tibet has an almost mysticalfascination for westerners, and tours need to be undertaken with interpretationthat covers history, religion, biology, geology and culture. Given the relativeisolation of Tibet, its underdeveloped tourism services sector and the reliance ofaccess to many parts by four-wheel drive vehicles on precipitous roads overpasses more than 5000 metres high, the type of tourism might be appropriatelydescribed as cultural/natural heritage adventure tourism.The following vignettes areincluded to indicate the potentialattractions for this type of tourism. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
Road to Jiuzhaotse Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
1. In Dege, there is a very famous Buddhist printery and monastery that formore than 300 years has been producing hand-printed Buddhist texts on scrollswhich are also of handmade paper (from mulberry tree pulp and bark) that ismade in an annexe. A visit to this monastery today will reveal an absolute hive ofactivity as perhaps 100 monks continue to hand-print 3 million copies of suchtexts each year that are distributed all over Tibet. They have a „library‟ of 60,000woodcut blocks, which were kept in safekeeping during the Cultural Revolution.Dege has recently been opened for tourism and thousands of Chinese andforeign Buddhists, including from Taiwan, Japan, India and elsewhere, purchasetexts from the printery each year. Dege Monastery Printing House Thousands of printed texts
2. The wood-cuts used by the monastery in Dege come from a tiny village calledSejiong about 200 miles away high up in the mountains which we approachedthrough the long narrow Jirong Gorge foaming with white water under precipitouscliffs. Boys are apprenticed at the age of six to begin learning how to read and writeTibetan sanskrit and to carve the wood blocks, using ancient templates that werealso hidden during the destruction of the Cultural Revolution years (1966-1976). Afterthe cultural revolution the art of template carving was resuscitated and is a thrivingcottage industry. On request you may be taken into the Sejiong monastery – largelyrebuilt by funds from India, under the supervision of a Tibetan monk who hadreturned only recently from Dharmsala - and shown the ancient woodblocktemplates, and some of the „books‟ of Buddhist mantras that are 300-400 years oldand black with age. The monastery is also filled with religious paintings, carvings,accoutrements and artefacts of significant antiquity, as well as new monasticdecorations. Two artefacts did not exactly following conservation or the Buddhisttenet against taking all life: the skins of two magnificent snow leopards. When Iqueried this, I was told they were there to teach the people NOT to kill them: but onelooked very new and was being used as a robe over a drum.The point about these various activities is that they refute allegations of suppressionof religious freedom, destruction of material culture or cultural genocide. There is noteven one Chinese policeman in this remote community. Its isolation is likely to bechanged however if a new road proposed for the area runs through Jirong Gorge. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
Sejiong Monastery Novitiate with woodcuts, Snow Jirongleopard Gorge skin Ancient insideSejiong Buddhistmonast- texts ery Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
3. Qiang-ba-ling monastery in Chamdo, perhaps the most famous Buddhist Yellow Hat (Gelu) sect teaching institute – swarming with more than 2000 resident monks. Pilgrims coming and going all day, every day of the week. Some prostrating themselves across the huge courtyard to the inner temples, others lighting incense in front of statues of Buddha and his guardians, throngs of Tibetans burning dwarf juniper twigs for its purifying scent. Teaching and debating all day, with the monks shouting and gesticulating and stomping in a walled courtyard lined with river pebbles, raising a huge clatter as they emphasize a point - incredibly dynamic and participatory. If only my students displayed the enthusiasm of these novitiates! The temple complex was inscribed on China‟s list of protected heritage and cultural sites in 1962, suffered significant damage during the Cultural Revolution, but has since been rebuilt and expanded in the past three years, following my first visit in 2005. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism,University of Tasmania, Australia Pilgrims approaching Qiang-ba-ling
Monks sneaking out of evening meditation Main temple ofQiang-ba-ling MonasteryNovitiates at class in the“Lamaist Scripture-Discussing-Courtyard” ofQiang-ba-ling Monastery
4. Similarly, Wa La monastery, 1500 years old, now rebuilt after major destructionduring the cultural revolution, all its main statues, icons and artefacts hidden awayin caves for more than a decade, is enjoying rebirth with more than 500 youngnovitiates, also clattering on their courtyard of pebbles as they debate esoterictopics. One group while I was there was debating “How high is the sky?” with one ofthe elderly professor monks, using Buddhist texts to substantiate their arguments. Ivisited temple after temple, monastery after monastery around central eastern andsouthern Tibet, some so isolated they completely escaped the turmoil of theCultural Revolution, all of them alive with complex ceremonies, elders teachingyounger artists the highly skilled art of thanka painting, pilgrims with prayer wheels,monks chanting mantras, where their daily rituals were being practised withouthindrance as far as I could ascertain.This is not the picture the Dalia Lama paints. Wa La Monastery Thanka master at work, Dalak monastery
A livingreligion, a living culture Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
5. Wami village on the road to Garma temple and monastery five hours driveup into the mountains from Chamdo where blacksmiths make their traditionalBuddhist metal masks and carvings, all handcrafted, not a single Chinese-made percussion drill, welder or metal grinder in sight, smoke rising fromcharcoal kilns where the iron is smelted, tap-tapping and ringing tonesreverberating around the valley as they shape the metal into temple artefacts.And near Garma Temple itself a whole village of thanka artists producingtraditional paintings and decorations for Buddhist monasteries. Here we wereinvited into a sunlit courtyard and enjoyed lunch of fresh barley bread, yakyoghurt and stewed yak washed down with copious volumes of yak butter tea,joined by many of the villagers. All local authorities were Tibetan, the onlyChinese present being members of our planning team. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
Artists at work for Buddhist temples and monasteries Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
6. The cave temple of a Buddhist healer in the mountains above the NujiangValley, halfway between Chamdo and Bo-mi. So famous have his healings becomein the last 20 years that Tibetans and non-Tibetans, Buddhists and non-Buddhistsalike, seek his services in their hundreds. The entire mountainside where the caveis located is draped in prayer flags and there are numerous shrines beside the trailthat leads from the gravel road for a kilometre up to the cave. As new healings aremade, more and more offerings are made and prayers and incense offered at theshrines - active, dynamic, a living culture in open view. The cave has become aBuddhist shrine, its caverns lined with offerings of all kinds, one cavern piled highwith the skulls of yaks, horses, oxen, sheep and goats on which are inscribedBuddhist mantras. On descending from the cave I noticed a pile of abandonedcrutches left behind by those who had been cured, and now a shrine in its ownright as pilgrims have placed mani stones and incense next to the crutches, wherethey stop and pray. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, Abandoned crutches are now a shrine University of Tasmania, Australia
The flag-festooned trail up Entrance to the healing The healer monk the mountainside to the cave temple Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, cave Australia
7. Glaciers are common in the Tibetan ranges, and we visited six along the roadfrom Nying-chi to Dzayul. Zeju Glacier in the Tibet Yigong National Geo-park nearBo-mi involved a four hour 4WD trip through the Baiyu Valley, past six or sevenvillages, numerous shrines of mani stones and steles, little monasteries andtemples, and flocks of yaks, sheep, goats and horses. Our planning team votedthis one of the most interesting valleys/day trips we experienced, and the followingphotographs attest to its scenic qualities. Community based tourism with home-stays and guided treks to the glaciers and montane forests is the obviousrecommendation to take advantage of the nature-based experiences on offer. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism,University of Tasmania, Australia
Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism,University of Tasmania, Australia
8. Perhaps most poignant of all, a visit to a sacred Buddhist valley high up in the mountains above the Tibetan town of Po-mi, in a forest called Zha-Longou. I first visited the site in 2005 and again in July 2008.It is believed by some Tibetan Buddhist sects that a child under the age of one has not been able to amass any merit for the next life and be reincarnated, and so if they die they are condemned to be „lost souls‟ wandering in the void. Some 27 years ago – that is, 1981 and 30 years after the Chinese moved into Tibet – a Buddhist monk through various divinations determined that this valley had special properties that would allow young babies to be reincarnated as humans again. Babies who have died are brought to this sacred place by their parents, many of them coming from hundreds of miles away. The bodies are wrapped in silk scarves and placed in tiny boxes or baskets or blankets, their „coffins‟ hung from the branches of ancient cypress trees that grow in this high alpine valley. The monk from his simple temple offers prayers that never stop, day after day, week after week, his prayers guiding the babies‟ souls on their journey to reincarnation. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism,University of Tasmania, Australia
This site is not „secret‟, it is known to the authorities and as such representsevidence of both religious freedom and tolerance of Tibetan culture. I was takenthere to offer my views on whether it was an appropriate place for cultural tourism.This site raises critical issues related to the emic and etic perspectives and thana-tourism (dark tourism to sites such as Auschwitz and the Choeung-Ek genocidekilling fields in Cambodia). As a westerner my initial judgement based on myimported („outsider‟, etic) value system rejected visitation as an invasion of privacyand personal grief. The anthropologist in me allowed me take 6 photos before the(western) human emotions took over and put the camera away. My initialrecommendation against this place as unacceptable dark tourism was very firm. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Entrance path to Zha-longou Australia
However, in talking with two sets of parents who were leaving after having broughttheir babies bodies there two days previously I was exposed to the emic („insider‟Tibetan) perspective, and was jolted by their response to my questions aboutstrangers visiting the valley. It was obvious that this place gave them enormouspeace of mind. Their dead child was not condemned to eternal void: his/her soulhad been saved. While not quite a celebration, it was certainly closure. They wentto some lengths to assure me that they did not to mind that as a complete stranger Icould visit this very special place, with hundreds of tiny moss-covered boxes andbaskets and blanket bundles swaying gently in the breeze under the gnarled trees.Part of their response may have been common Tibetan courtesy to a foreigner buttheir underlying value system suggested parents at ease with this form of thana-tourism.As a westerner I remain of theview that this site should not be„developed‟ for tourism and that itshould be respected as a specialBuddhist site. Despite theapparent acquiescence of theparents I spoke to, I would wantto see the results of a survey witha much larger sample than 2before moving to any Dr Trevor Sofield,reconsideration of this position. Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
INNOVATION is increasingly necessary in tourism development because so manydiverse attractions are available that tourists are becoming very selective in whatthey will pay to see and do. ACTION as well as ATTRACTION is necessary toprovide a QUALITY EXPERIENCE that tourists will be willing to pay for. Theapplication of principles of Ecotourism as advocated by the EcoClub provides theopportunity for both innovation and action to be combined as attraction forsustainable eco- and cultural tourism.In many countries there are tall “skywalks” (boardwalks erected on 50+ meters highposts) that allow people to experience the forest canopy (treetops) instead ofboardwalks and trails along the ground. And there are perhaps thousands of cablecars that have been constructed in the past 30 years to take people through forestsand up steep mountains. Both of these types of construction are: • expensive to build; • are often environmentally damaging; • limited in how much money can be charged for people to use them; and • they have no relationship to the local culture.
9. One of our proposals for a form of ecotourism activity new to Tibet is based ona traditional Tibetan form of transport – their use of ropes and pulleys to transportgoods and people across the deep narrow gorges of rivers and streams. Forexample, since 700 A.D. the cha-ma-trail (tea-horse trail) which runs for 2,500kms from Lijiang in northern Yunnan Province to Lhasa has used ropes andpulleys to transport tea across the Yangtze and Mekong River gorges en route toLhasa, with horses being transported across the rivers on the return journey. In 1930 the biologist, Joseph Rock, made an historic mounted exploration of the mountainous regions running between Lijiang, China and Tibet. Because he travelled with a large guard, Rock was able to have his mules and horses winched across the raging rivers of Tibet. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
This proposal builds on that tradition to introduce a new way of „travelling‟through a forest - a „zip line‟, or high wire harness ride through thetreetops. Such zip lines are becomoing common as a form of adventuyretourism in several countries (including Australia). Locations for such anadventure ride could be the Tsebark Valley National Nature Preserve nearDyazul, the Mel-dway Glacier, and the Five Cultures Villages. Such adevelopment would be innovative (in terms of tourism), active, andenvironmentally sensitive, but culturally derived since Tibetans have beenusing zip lines for centuries! Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
In Australia, an example isthe Hollybanks TreetopsAdventure in the Tasmanianforests. The US$700,000project takes thrill-seekers ona 730m elevated tour in thelongest continuous treetopcable ride in Australia.Participants are strapped intoharnesses clipped to cables50m above the ground,stopping at seven specialplatforms known as „cloudstations‟ along the way. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
This cable wire harness ride is environmentally sound. Unlike cable cars forexample which must travel in a straight line, not a single tree was cut downto make the Hollybanks cable harness ride as it winds through the treetops.It uses the giant trees in the forest for its „sky platforms‟, it has no steelposts or other man-made structures to support it, and it uses gravity ratherthan a form of generated power to transport „riders‟ along the cables. Itscarbon footprint is thus negligible. The fee is $150 per person to take theride, groups are restricted to ten at a time and are accompanied by atrained guide who provides interpretation of the forest canopy habitat.Forestry Tasmania supports the Hollybank Treetops Adventure with aninternational mountain bike park, walking trails, signage, car parking, toilets,picnic facilities and a café, and this model has been suggested for a rangeof sites in Tibet. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
One such site for an innovative access experience incorporates the Five Cultures Villages, Lunang Valley. Diagram illustrating how the cable harness ride could provide an exciting access for adventurous tourists to the Five Cultures Villages. Instead of justdriving along the road, they could stop at the top of the hill, and slide down thecable across the river and down the valley to the village of their choice. Their bus would take the road.
Proposed zip line acces to Five Cultures Villages, Lunang Valley. Dr Trevor Sofield, Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
Dr Trevor Sofield,Mount Namchak Barwo in the background Professor of Tourism, University of Tasmania, Australia
Some Final Thoughts on Planning for Tourism in Tibet.As with all tourism planning for development in China, much ofit is top-down and driven by government as the keystakeholder. Increasingly, however, authorities accept andinvite additional stakeholders to participate in the formulationof planning, and slowly community based tourism among theMinorities* is reaching out to those most directly affected, andtheir views and proposals taken into account. Many Chineseplanners have trained in western countries and mixed teams(i.e. of both Chinese and international experts) provide astrong combination to bring global best practice into aninformed socio-cultural synthesis with Chinese values andpriorities that may be difficult for a non-Chinese to fullyappreciate. In the case of Tibet this has proved especiallyimportant where the environment and the culture requiresound, sensible and sensitive management.[* China has 55 officially recognised ethnic Minorities – minzu – whocollectively number more than 110 million, almost 10% of the totalpopulation. There are about 3 million Tibetans resident in the TARand another 5 million living in neighbouring provinces such asXinjiang, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan.]
In posting this brief outline of recent tourism planning activities in Tibet my hope is to better inform an often uninformed world of aspects of Tibet that I have been privileged to see. Trevor Sofield, 20 August 2008