06/07/2012 11:51 am ET

China Clamps Down On Tibet Tourism

Chinese authorities have started telling travel agencies to stop planning tours to Tibet, reports The Vancouver Sun. Though Voice of America reports Tibetan travel authorities have yet to divulge an official reason for what is being described as a ban, it may be due to the start of the Saga Dawa festival or to the anti-Chinese rule protests that featured the self-immolation of two men late last month.

“The rules and regulations surrounding Tibetan permits have changed frequently over recent weeks, with the authorities denying access to smaller groups at various stages,” Carl Burrows, sales director at British tour operator Explore, told The Telegraph. “This week our agents alerted us that this may be extended to a blanket ban on tourist permits for the rest of this month, regardless of the number in the group.”

It's unknown how long the ban will last.

Jim Eite, head of product at UK company Exodus Travels, told the Daily Mail that his company has cancelled all departures to Tibet through until the end of August.

This isn't the first time China has clamped down on Tibetan tourism. In January, Tibet was closed to foreigners during the Tibetan New Year celebration. Before that, foreigners were banned from some heavily Tibetan parts of southwestern Sichuan province in April 2011. June 2011 also saw the closure of Tibet to tourists through the end of July 2011.