Tibet goes cashless

While Tibet evokes images of ancient traditions for many tourists, out-of-towners are discovering they don't have to give up modern conveniences when they travel in the far western region.

A tourist from southeast China's Fujian province was pleasantly surprised to be able to pay through Alipay at a fast-food chain in downtown Lhasa.

"I never thought I could enjoy the same convenience as in (eastern) cities," he said.

The restaurant opened in March, and within a month, customers no longer had to pay in cash.

"Mobile payments not only improve efficiency, but also save tourists a lot of time withdrawing money from the ATM," said the store's manager.

Li, a 44-year-old taxi driver, worked at a construction site in Lhasa before a friend suggested he register on ride-hailing platforms to earn some extra money.

"I tried it and found the market really promising," he said. "I can earn 120 yuan (about USD17) a day, and my income can triple or even quadruple during peak seasons."

Going cashless has become the new normal for Tibetans.

Restaurants, souvenir shops, and movie theaters all provide online payment services. QR codes have become common on vendor booths selling Tibetan jewelry.

Figures from the Tibet communication administration bureau indicate the number of Internet users in Tibet had reached 1.639 million as of March.

An account statement from Alipay also showed that 83.3 percent of payments in Tibet were conducted via mobile phones in 2015, topping the country for four years in a row.

"This year's online transactions rose significantly, compared to previous years," said Norbu, an employee at a People's Bank of China branch in Lhasa.

"Partly because more stores accept online payments, but more importantly, it shows a change in consumption and payment habits among the public in Tibet," he said.

As Jigme, a young Tibetan man, noted, "Paying online has become part of our lives."

Source: Philippines News Agency