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Qinghai-Tibet railway brings more visitors to China's plateau city

The plateau city of Golmud in far west Qinghai province has seen a growing number of tourists over the past five years thanks to the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a local official said Monday.

Golmud, a major stop on the railway, received 4.16 million visitors from 2006 to 2011, while taking in revenue of 851 million yuan (135 million U.S. dollars), an average annual growth of 12.3 percent and 32.7 percent, respectively, said Chen Xu, director of the Golmud Municipal Tourism Bureau.

The 1,956-km Qinghai-Tibet Railway links the Qinghai provincial capital of Xining with the capital of Tibet, Lhasa. Before it was fully put into operation on July 1, 2006, Golmud had been the destination of the railway.

Golmud, a Mongolian word that means "a place where rivers converge," is well known for the Gobi Desert and windy weather, but it also boasts unique, picturesque plateau scenery, such as snowy mountains, glaciers, and desert forests. It has been a popular area for people to enjoy the sightseeing of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, observe the activities of wild animals, and carry out both scientific and climbing expeditions.

"Tourism has become the most dynamic facet of growth in the local economy, so we are building Golmud into a domestic tourism center for plateau traveling and a world-renowned destination for expeditions," Chen said.

More than 6.5 million people traveled on the Qinghai-Tibet railway in 2011, up 9 percent from 2010, the railway company has said.

The high-elevation railway also transported 40 million tonnes of cargo in 2011, up 8 percent year-on-year.