Lhasa is the urban centre of the prefecture-level Lhasa City and the administrative capital of Tibet. The inner urban area of Lhasa City is equivalent to the administrative borders of Chengguan District, which is part of the wider prefectural Lhasa City. Lhasa is the second most populous urban area on the Tibetan Plateau, and at an altitude of 3,656 metres (11,990 ft), Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world. The city has been the religious and administrative capital of Tibet since the mid 17th century. It contains many culturally significant Tibetan Buddhist sites such as the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka Palaces.
Competitive industry together with feature economy play key roles in the development of Lhasa. With the view to maintaining a balance between population growth and the environment, tourism and service industries are emphasised as growth engines for the future. Many of Lhasa's rural residents practice traditional agriculture and animal husbandry. Lhasa is also the traditional hub of the Tibetan trading network. For many years, chemical and car making plants operated in the area and this resulted in significant pollution, a factor which has changed in recent years. Copper, lead and zinc are mined nearby and there is ongoing experimentation regarding new methods of mineral mining and geothermal heat extraction.
Agriculture and animal husbandry in Lhasa are considered to be of a high standard. People mainly plant highland barley and winter wheat. The resources of water conservancy, geothermal heating, solar energy and various mines are abundant. There is widespread electricity together with the use of both machinery and traditional methods in the production of such things as textiles, leathers, plastics, matches and embroidery. The production of national handicrafts has made great progress.
With the growth of tourism and service sectors, the sunset industries which cause serious pollution are expected to fade in the hope of building a healthy ecological system. Environmental problems such as soil erosion, acidification, and loss of vegetation are being addressed. The tourism industry now brings significant business to the region, building on the attractiveness of the Potala Palace, the Jokang, the Norbulingka Summer Palace and surrounding large monasteries as well the spectacular Himalayan landscape together with the many wild plants and animals native to the high altitudes of Central Asia. Chinese authorities plan an ambitious growth of tourism in the region aiming at 10 million domestic visitors per year. With renovation around historic sites, such as the Potala Palace, UNESCO has expressed "concerns about the deterioration of Lhasa's traditional cityscape.
Lhasa contains several hotels. Lhasa Hotel is a 4-star hotel located north-east of Norbulingka in the western suburbs of the city. It is the flagship of CITS's installations in Tibet. It accommodates about 1,000 guests and visitors to Lhasa. There are over 450 rooms (suites) in the hotel, and all are equipped with air conditioning. Some of the rooms are decorated in traditional Tibetan style. The hotel is the subject of a book, The Hotel on the Roof of the World. Another hotel of note is the historical Banak Shöl Hotel, located at 8 Beijing Road in the city. It is known for its distinctive wooden verandas. The Nam-tso Restaurant is located in the vicinity of the hotel and is frequented especially by Chinese tourists visiting Lhasa.
Lhasa contains several businesses of note. Lhasa Carpet Factory, a factory south of Yanhe Dong Lu near the Tibet University, produces traditional Tibetan rugs that are exported world-wide. It is a modern factory, the largest manufacturer of rugs throughout Tibet, employing some 300 workers. Traditionally Tibetan women were the weavers, and men the spinners, but both work on the rugs today.
The Lhasa Brewery Company was established in 1988 on the northern outskirts of Lhasa, south of Sera Monastery and is the highest commercial brewery in the world at 11,975 feet (3,650 m) and accounts for 85 percent of contemporary beer production in Tibet. The brewery, consisting of five-story buildings employs some 200 workers. The Carlsberg group has a strong presence in the Chinese market and has become increasingly influential in the country with investment and expertise. Carlsberg invested in the Lhasa Brewery in recent years and has drastically improved the brewing facility and working conditions, renovating and expanding the buildings.
Lhasa has a population of over 279,074 people. Lhasa also forms part of the wider Lhasa metropolitan area which has a population of over 330,000 people.