China Says Tibet Open to Tourists

BEIJING ~ China says Tibet had not been closed to foreign tourists as tensions built over Chinese rule in the Himalayan region, despite travel agencies reporting a government-ordered ban.

“To my understanding, up to date, no agencies in Tibet have received instructions to restrict the entrance of foreign visitors to Tibet,” foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters.

Four government-run travel agencies in China and other industry people in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, told the AFP newswire that Tibet had been closed to foreign tourists.

Shark Attacks ‘Down in 2008’

MIAMI ~ The incidence of shark attacks declined in 2008 to the lowest level in five years, in part because the bad economy has meant fewer tourists on the beach, a report by the University of Florida said.

The total number of attacks fell to 59 last year, compared to 71 in 2007, said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida.

“I can’t help but think that contributing to that reduction may have been the reticence of some people to take holidays and go to the beach for economic reasons,” he said.

Singapore Arrivals Fall 13%

SINGAPORE ~ Singapore said visitor arrivals fell almost 13 percent in January from a year ago amid further signs the tourism sector was hurting from the effects of the global downturn.

The Singapore Tourism Board said in a statement 771,000 visitors arrived in January, down from 885,000 for the same period in 2008.

Hotel room revenues in January dropped almost 30 percent to US$124 million while the average room rate for last month was $209, an 11.7-percent decline over last year.

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