To Tibet by train - for US$10,000 a ticket

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 March, 2011, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 March, 2011, 7:00pm

Beijing is to launch a luxury train service to Lhasa this year, with ticket prices as high as US$10,000, a tourism official in Tibet says.

Liao Lisheng, director of policies and regulations at the Tibet Tourism Bureau, said the train would accommodate 108 passengers for a luxury seven-day ride, the Tibet Daily reported.

'The compartments will be divided in different classes and passengers will feel more comfortable with the frills, which include showers and living rooms,' Liao was quoted as saying. Reservations were required because of the limited tickets, he said. The bureau will lay out more detailed plans this month.

The regular Beijing-Lhasa train journey, which was rolled out in 2006, takes 44 hours and ticket prices go up to 1,262 yuan (HK$1,496).

Compared with the planned price tag for the luxury version, a six-day Paris-Istanbul train trip costs US$9,470 for shared occupancy of a double cabin and US$14,290 for a suite cabin.

Beijing has announced several times its intention to operate a luxury train service between the capital and Lhasa, but each time the plan was postponed.

It is not immediately clear whether the latest deal involves Hong Kong-listed Wing On Travel, which was a major shareholder of a company that held luxury train operation rights between Beijing, Lhasa and Lijiang in Yunnan . The company said in February last year it had delayed the launch of those services.

Tibet was initially linked with the rest of the world only through a railway to Qinghai that opened in July 2006. It now has five airports in use and two more in the works.

Tibet recorded more than 21 million domestic and foreign arrivals in the past five years, an increase of 31 per cent year on year. It made 23 million yuan in tourism revenue, a gain of 30 per cent year on year. The region aims to increase the number of arrivals to 15 million a year by 2015 and to raise annual tourism revenue to 15 billion yuan, Xinhua reports, citing the Tibet Tourism Bureau.

Liao said Beijing planned to invest 10 billion yuan to improve Tibet's tourism infrastructure.