Tourism boom opens the road to riches

Updated: 2013-11-07 07:54

By Hu Yongqi and Li Yingqing (China Daily)

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In the decade since Zhongdian county was renamed Shangri-La (after James Hilton's classic adventure novel Lost Horizon), thousands of Tibetans have tried to make their fortunes from the tourist boom.

In Diqing alone, 25 travel agencies employ 2,480 guides, according to the prefecture's tourism bureau. The area has at least 300 privately operated hotels, employing more than 10,000 local people, which provide accommodation for visitors from home and abroad.

Tourism boom opens the road to riches

Inside the the hall of Arro Khampa Boutique, a Tibetan-style hotel in Shangri-La. Provided to China Daily

Sonam is probably the most successful entrepreneur in the regional tourist industry, having amassed personal wealth of more than 200 million yuan.

Tourism boom opens the road to riches

Tourism boom opens the road to riches

Although his face was sunburned from long days spent traveling back and forth across the valley, his puffy, bloodshot eyes indicated that he had gone without sleep for several days.

"The damage will be long-lasting and, given the danger posed by falling rocks, we can't open the valley to visitors yet. Violent tremors still occur occasionally. Last night the ground shook like a baby's cradle," said Sonam.

Showing the resilience to adversity that enabled him to open the park in the face of considerable hostility, Sonam stressed that nothing will dent his confidence that he can restore the highway and continue to promote the beautiful scenery around his hometown.