LHASA, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- The third tourism and culture expo kicks off in Lhasa, capital of Tibet in southwest China, on Saturday.
About 400 overseas guests, who were foreign ambassadors in China, diplomatic corps from Northeast Asia and South Asia, foreign journalists and overseas merchants from 15 countries and regions, including the United States, France, Republic of Korea and Pakistan, attended the Third China Tibet Tourism and Culture Expo.
Among the unprecedented number of overseas merchants, 219 were from Nepal. Traders from Taiwan island and India appeared for the first time in the expo, which will last until Friday.
Forums and exhibitions on Tibet's tourism, culture and the Tibetan medicine and mineral water industry, as well as investment and trade promotion, will be organized during the expo, according to the organizing committee.
Losang Jamcan, chairman of Tibet's regional government, said in the opening ceremony that Tibet would seize the strategic opportunity of the Belt and Road Initiative by upgrading the region into an international travel destination, a sheltered area of special Chinese culture and a major passageway open to South Asia.
Chinese culture minister Luo Shugang said tourism has become a strong force of economic growth and will drive the region to open up further to foreign tourists.
Tourism revenue, accounting for over 20 percent of the region's GDP, rose 30 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2015. Tibet aims to host 17 million tourists this year.
Mr. Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Nepal's deputy prime minister and minister of finance, said the number of visitors from China to Nepal is growing substantially and continues to grow further.
"If we manage to welcome only a fraction of Chinese outbound visitors to travel to Nepal, it will be a great achievement for Nepali tourism industry," the minister said, adding there is a tremendous potential for Nepal and Tibet to benefit from tourism as both have unique elements of attraction for global tourists.