A destination in transition : Lhasa after the Qinghai-Tibet railway

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A destination in transition : Lhasa after the Qinghai-Tibet railway


Author: Fu, Sui-tuen Candace
Title: A destination in transition : Lhasa after the Qinghai-Tibet railway
Degree: M.Phil.
Year: 2010
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Railroads -- Economic aspects -- China -- Tibet, Plateau of
Railroads -- Economic aspects -- China -- Qinghai Sheng
Railroads -- Social aspects -- China -- Tibet, Plateau of
Railroads -- Social aspects -- China -- Qinghai Sheng
Department: School of Hotel and Tourism Management
Pages: xiii, 202 leaves : ill., 1 map ; 30 cm.
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2351713
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/5523
Abstract: The primary inspiration to undertake this study was the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet railway connecting Tibet with the rest of China. Half way through this study, on March 14th 2008, a violent protest occurred in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. As a result of political instability, a tense atmosphere prevailed in Lhasa. In response to the changing political environment, the candidate shifted the initial focus of this study. Instead of examining the evolution of a growing destination as initially planned, the scope of this study shifted to examine the impact of the Qinghai-Tibet railway on the local population of Lhasa. More specifically, the key question of this study is the identification of tourism impact brought by the opening of the railway and to discuss associated socio-economic benefits and issues of tourism development in the context of Tibet. This study used qualitative and descriptive perspectives. Two field visits to Lhasa were made from 30th May to 11th June, 2007 and 14th June to 13th July, 2008. The tense political atmosphere limited local citizen response and participation in this study. A total of 25 semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted, both formally and informally, with local residents. Observations and experiences from the two ethnographic fieldwork visits are thereafter presented. Findings from this study indicate that tourism has created a development paradox in context of the study area. On the one hand it has been found as a tool to generate more economic growth by leading to increased job opportunities, increased income and an increase in consumable goods. In turn, it has increased living standards for the local population. Yet, the question still remains as to whether benefits of additional tourism brought by the railway are distributed evenly across the local population, particularly if local Tibetans have benefited. As Lhasa demonstrates, instead of creating an environment for self-reliance, tourism may have marginalized Tibetans even further. However, as this study evolved, it became clear that socio-economic changes occurring in the study area were not solely due to tourism development but caused by the broader contextual background of Tibet. Tourism is found to not play a core role in shaping the socio-economic evolution within the study area, but through changes caused by a broader political and economic context. Unlike previous studies, tourism is therefore not considered the only agent in bringing about socio-economic changes to a host community. As a result of this impact on tourism, broader contexts of the destination should be taken into consideration in future studies.

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