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[Focus] Tourist crowds threaten heritage sites
Latest Updated by 2007-05-10 09:37:32

TOURISTS jammed the country's world heritage sites during the "golden week" holiday amid concerns that the crowds could inflict permanent damage on the attractions.

More than 4.86 million visitors from home and abroad flocked to Beijing during the seven days, a record high for the past 20 "golden week" holidays.

The Palace Museum had 440,000 visitors from May 1 to 7, an 8 percent increase over the same period last year, generating 23 million yuan (US$2.98 million) in ticket sales.

On May 2 alone, the museum handled 114,800 visitors, 2.3 times its daily maximum capacity and also the second-highest number since the seven-day May Day holiday was introduced, according to the People's Daily.

The newspaper said many visitors complained that the huge crowds and noise affected their trips.

"Many tourists said they didn't see many of the cultural relics just a lot of other people's backs. It was like a living hell," the report said.

At the Badaling section of the Great Wall near Beijing, the number of visitors surged by one third over last year and more than 62,000 visitors queued each day for their turn to climb the heritage site.

Xie Jiuzhong, director of the Badaling Promotion and Marketing Center, told the paper the center had tried to divert the crowds by creating new starting points and ticket windows and mobilising 13 teams of police and staff members to guide visitors.

Pingyao, in Shanxi province, one of the 33 UNESCO world heritage sites on the mainland, hosted 2.5 times its maximum visitor capacity May 4, pushing the town's tourism takings for the week up 8.2 percent year on year to 94.5 million yuan.

Xie Ninggao, director of World Heritage Studies Center at Beijing University, said pressure from excessive numbers of visitors would change a site's environment and cause incalculable damage.

Environmental concerns also triggered debate on whether the golden week holidays should be canceled.

The government won't reduce its existing 10 days of public holidays but may allocate more holidays during national traditional festivals, Zhang Xiqin, the vice director of the National Tourism Administration, said at a press conference Tuesday.

"We'll probably add more traditional holidays as public holidays," Zhang said after complaints about the golden week holiday practice and appeals to modify public holidays.

Editor: Wing

By: Source:Szdaily web edition
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