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Xinjiang aims to attract 50 million tourists by 2015

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region plans to receive 50 million tourists by 2015, according to Yinamu Nasirding, head of the Xinjiang government's tourism department.

"We have welcomed more than 25 million tourists from outside Xinjiang so far this year, and we plan to double this number by 2015," Nasirding said on Monday.

Xinjiang has a population of 2.4 million, and Nasirding said that it "boasts all kinds of landscape, including snowy mountains, deserts, lakes, and grassland."

Affected by last year's riots in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, the number of visitors to the region dropped sharply in 2009.

But, following a return to order, domestic and international tourists have started to return.

During the National Day holiday this year, which lasts from October 1 to 7, around 2.2 million visitors traveled to Xinjiang.

"All of our hotels and air routes connecting each city inside Xinjiang were full," Nasirding said.

"The biggest problem concerning tourism in Xinjiang is that Xinjiang is too big," he added. "For example, the distance from Urumqi to Kashgar is 1,500 kilometers. From Beijing to Shanghai, it's only 1,000 kilometers."

Each tourist spends at least 10,000 yuan (around $1,500) during a visit to Xinjiang and, for the same sum, a resident of China's coastal areas could travel to Thailand or South Korea.

In addition, those who visit Yili, in northern Xinjiang, from Kashgar, must first return to Urumqi in order to fly to Yili. "We are short of air routes to support tourism," Nasirding said.