It was once a mystical mountain enclave closed to outsiders and ruled by red-robed Buddhist monks, but the number of tourists visiting Tibet is set to double to six million between now and 2010.
The introduction of regular flights as well as a high-tech rail link to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, that started a year ago, has seen tourists arrive in droves to the city where historically neither foreigners or Chinese dare enter.
The opening up of Tibet is a contentious issue. Beijing says it is bringing prosperity to a traditionally impoverished area, and has engaged in a huge building programme. According to a regional government document, tourism could bring at least six billion yuan ($800m) or about 12 per cent of the region's gross domestic product.
Tibetan activists fear that local people will receive less than their share of new jobs and income, and that tourism and migration by Han Chinese could swamp the area's distinctive culture.