《环球时报》刊文：Tracking tourists in Tibet
A Tibetan opera competition held in a park during the traditional Shoton Festival in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, on August 12, 2018, attracts numerous Tibetan people and tourists from home and abroad. Photo: VCG
As China enters the era of big data, a key university in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region is using this technical method to monitor the flow of tourists.
Analysts said the move will not only boost the tourism industry, but also help safeguard regional stability and promote national unity.
Tibet University, the largest university in the region with an internationally renowned department of Tibetan studies, has established a big data center based on tourism information.
The center was jointly built by the university's information and technology school and Beijing-based Wiseweb Technology Company, one of China's leading companies that provide big data smart software and services. It was officially launched in early September.
Nyima Tashi, dean of the school, told the Global Times on Friday that the center aims to provide data support for the regional government to boost the local tourism industry and further accelerate the region's openness to the world.
Nyima said the school installed a real-time monitoring electronic screen which could display the number of tourists in a given period and the specific number at any tourist attraction.
Moreover, it can show the background information of local tourist attractions and exhibit any trends of changing tourist preferences.
"In near future, the screen could also show more information about tourists, such as the origin of domestic and overseas tourists and their preferences of scenic spots, as long as the information does not invade personal privacy," Nyima noted.
The big data screen made its debut at this year's tourism and culture expo that kicked off in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in early September.
Wang Sheng, deputy manager of Wiseweb, told the Global Times on Thursday that the data aims to provide a reference for the regional government to monitor tourism market dynamics.
For example, the screen could display important events held in Tibet, ticket information, and the number of tourists in different scenic spots, he said.
"The real time monitoring could give a warning to the government on negative social events," Wang noted.
According to Wang, some data is captured from open sources on the internet while other data is purchased from tourist companies. For the next step, the company will obtain more data from different levels of government. "Possibly, the screen will show more information about overseas tourists," said Wang.
The big data center impressed foreign visitors. Han Woo-duck, director of South Korea Central Daily China Institute, said in an article published on its website on September 18 that what marveled him most during his four-day visit to Tibet was not the Potala Palace or the Jokhang Monastery, but the big data center at Tibet University.
Han said the university's staff led him to the center, and the changing data on the screen, shown as pie charts and bar graphs, could demonstrate the changes of tourists in real time.
"It means that the Tibet University, located in the deep heart of China, is building up a big data center. It marks a clear comparison with South Korea, where there is not any real time information about the number of tourists in scenic spots, or the major gathering spots of overseas tourists," Han said in the article.
Tibet received a record 25.6 million domestic and foreign tourists in 2017, up 10.6 percent compared with the previous year, the Xinhua News Agency reported in January, citing regional authorities.
Tourism has become one of the pillar industries in the region. Tourism revenue during 2017 reached 37.9 billion yuan ($5.9 billion), with a year-on-year increase of 14.7 percent. Statistics showed that for the past five years, total tourism revenue in the region topped 130 billion yuan, said Xinhua.
Due to special ethnic traditions and environmental protection concerns, overseas tourists must get a permit from the regional tourist bureau before entering into Tibet.
From January to April, Tibet received nearly 40,000 foreign tourists, up 50.5 percent compared with the previous year.
"A big data system incorporating tourism information will help local governments manage the industry in more orderly way and avoid accidents," Xiong Kunxin, a professor of ethnic studies at Minzu University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Friday.
In addition to sharing the beautiful scenery and cultural heritage with the outside world, developing tourism in Tibet is also an important move to safeguard regional stability, promote national unity, and guard against separatist forces, said Xiong.