Often referred to as ‘The roof of the world’, Tibet is located on the highest plateau on earth in Asia, known as the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. It has an average elevation of an incredible 4,900 meters. This autonomous region is part of The People’s Republic of China and the capital city of Tibet is Lhasa.
Tibet is located to the North-East of the Himalayas, which explains its high altitude. In fact many people start their ascent of Mount Everest in Tibet, although the mountain itself is officially in Nepal.
The country is completely landlocked. Its neighboring provinces in China are the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region and the Qinghai province which lie to Tibet’s North, the Yunnan province to the Southeast, and the Sichuan province to the East. The other borders are shared with India, the Kingdom of Bhutan, Nepal and Burma.
Tibet covers an impressive 1.22 million km square, which is the equivalent to 12.8% of China’s total area. The country is divided into six administrative jurasdictions; Ngari, Shigatse, Nagqu, Lhokha, Nyingchi and Chamdo. Topographically the country is split into three regions. The West is known as the North-Tibet Plateau, the South is dominated by valleys and the Eastern areas have a lower altitude and feature numerous canyons.
Tibet is a deeply religious country, and it is holy to the Tibetans.
Tibet’s economy is currently booming as a result of China’s huge drive to develop its western areas. Over the past eight years Tibet’s economy has grown by an average of 12%. Tibet is changing rapidly as new hotels and businesses are cropping up all over the place. Money from eastern China is being ploughed into the western provinces, including Tibet.
This boost in infrastructure combined with Tibet’s stunning landscapes also means that tourism is booming. The increased investment in the area has improved the infrastructure making it more welcoming to visitors, as well as making it more accessible to the outside world. Many of these tourists are from within China itself. Wealthy Chinese tourists, mainly from the eastern provinces, are travelling to Tibet for their vacations, thus pumping even more money into the region. Tourism brings an incredible USD $300 million each year and this figure is on the up. More than 90% of these tourists are Chinese.
A train line opened up between Tibet and Qinghai Province in 2006 which has played a huge role in boosting Tibet’s economy and tourism figures. During its first year of operation it transported an amazing 1.5 million additional visitors to Tibet.
This economic boost has been good news for Tibet as a whole and has helped it to join the modern world while retaining its beauty and charm. However, it has led to an increasing economic divide between the towns and the rural populations. There is a huge difference in the per capita disposable income, with a level of USD $260 in the countryside and $1000 in the towns. This divide is set to increase as money is pumped into the Tibetan towns and the rural areas remain overlooked.