Lhasa, Sep 29 (IANS) Tibet will encourage airlines to launch more domestic and international flights serving the southwest Chinese region to boost its pillar tourism industry, the chairman of the regional government said on Tuesday.

The regional capital Lhasa is aiming to be “an international cultural and tourism city”, said Losang Jamcan during the Second Tibet Tourism and Culture Expo, a three-day event which opened in Lhasa on Monday.

The only direct international flight into Lhasa is from Nepal capital Kathmandu, Xinhua news agency reported.

The government believes that with more flights and better infrastructure, attractions like the scenic prefecture of Nyingchi and the Gangdise mountains can be powerful draws. Gangdise is a destination for Buddhist pilgrimages.

Tibet will accelerate the construction of highways and airports, said Losang Jamcan.

He said Tibet will also tap the Belt and Road project bolstering Asian trade and infrastructure to “open the door of tourism and cultural exchange with south Asian countries”.

Tibet welcomed 14.3 million tourists in the first eight months of 2015, generating 19 billion yuan ($3 bn) in revenue, according to the local tourism development commission.

Tourism contributes one fifth to the region’s GDP. The region aims to attract 17 million tourists this year.