Tibetans develop a taste for the West - Economy & Society - Tibetol

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Tibetans develop a taste for the West
By:China Daily
update:May 15,2019

May 15, 2019 -- Palden, chef at Xishidong, a newly opened Japanese restaurant in the city. [Photo by PALDEN NYIMA/CHINA DAILY]

Traditionally, tourism in Tibet booms between May and October, before the number of visitors falls significantly in winter, resulting in low rates of return on investments in related infrastructure, such as hotels and restaurants.

"Although my restaurant isn't on one of the busiest streets, the locals all know about us. Tourists can also easily locate us with the help of food-rating apps on their phones. All I need to do is provide quality food," Jubaju said.

Liang Juan, Meituan's head in Tibet, said that when the group entered the region in 2016, it was still not covered by the 4G network - the telecommunications technology that people in many areas of the country had already taken for granted.

"Without 4G, both our customers and restaurant owners found it very frustrating when placing and receiving orders on their phones. It was just too slow, no matter how hard they pressed the screen! The speed of delivery was also greatly affected because our riders couldn't receive orders straight away," she said.

This changed in December 2017 when 4G arrived in the region. "Our business was fundamentally transformed after this," Liang said. "Tibetans' lives were also transformed."

Initially, Meituan only had 10 delivery riders in Tibet, but now has more than 1,000. It has also expanded its delivery zone from Lhasa to five other cities and prefectures as well as four counties. "Some of the areas are at very high altitude, but our delivery charge is the same throughout the region," Liang said.

"At first, our customers were mainly tourists or businesspeople who were regular Meituan users at home. But locals have gradually accepted the concept and started to use our services."

The platform receives more than 30,000 orders a day on average and Liang is busy recruiting new delivery personnel to meet the rising demand. "The most popular food people order in Tibet is fast-food such as KFC and porridge," she added.

In Tibet, where rigorous environmental protection standards are enforced, the use of plastic bags is banned, so all restaurants are required by Meituan to use recyclable paper containers and bags. "Although we are the newest member of the Meituan delivery family, we are pioneers in environmental protection, which Tibetans naturally attach great importance to," Liang said.

Tibet's food scene will not only become more diverse in the future, more quality food will become available.

Uma, owner of the Itagelato Cafe in Lhasa, said competition is already fierce as the region undergoes rapid economic development and people have more money to spend.

"Locals love to sit down and spend time at my cafe instead of ordering takeaways. I can feel the competition, as many new cafes are opening in Lhasa," she said.

"To stay ahead of the game, I select the best beans and have them shipped to Lhasa to serve my customers so they can have a cup of good coffee even when they are on the 'roof of the world'."

Sikar, the receptionist, said many tourists still find it surprising when she tells them there is a KFC restaurant and a lovely cafe, just around the corner and they can also order takeaways on their phones.

"Why not? They are a part of our lives, too," the young Tibetan said.

By: By Cui Jia, Palden Nyima

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