URUMQI, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- China's westernmost Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region welcomed a record high of 107 million tourists in 2017, up 32.4 percent year on year.
The number was announced by Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the Xinjiang regional government, when he delivered a government work report at the ongoing local parliamentary session.
In addition, tourists spent over 182 billion yuan (28.4 billion U.S. dollars) in Xinjiang last year, 30 percent more than in 2016.
As tourism is seen as a barometer of stability and harmony, Zakir said, Xinjiang's tourism performance "shows again that Xinjiang is a good place."
During the past year, improved social stability has provided conditions and guarantees for Xinjiang's economic and social development, giving residents a better sense of security, he said.
Xinjiang's economy is expected to have grown 7.6 percent year on year in 2017, with its gross domestic product totaling 1,092 billion yuan.
In the past, summer was the only peak season for tourism in the region, but that has now been extended, said Mahim, manager of Xinjiang Bus Travel Company based in the regional capital of Urumqi.
"We used to receive individual travelers starting June or July. But last year, we saw more than 500 such tourists since March," he said.
Akbar Niyaz earned more than 50,000 yuan over the summer from his homestay in the suburbs of Turpan. "Some came all the way from Hubei or Sichuan provinces. We had more tourists, and they stayed longer than before," Niyaz said.
He said that picking grapes and tours of the city's ancient subterranean irrigation system are on the must-do list for many tourists.
Burqin County in Altay, a prefecture known for winter activities, has logged 40,000 visitors since November, a record high for this period, according to the county's tourism bureau.
Zhang Xiaoyu, director of the regional tourism association, attributed the region's growth in tourism to a stabilized social environment.
Many tourists share their experiences and pictures of Xinjiang via their social media networks, attracting even more people to come, Zhang said.
Calling tourism "an important pillar industry with the greatest potential" in Xinjiang, the government work report said that the region should strive for at least 30 percent year-on-year growth in tourist numbers in 2018.