The number of travelers outbound from China reached 16.0 million in the first seven months of 2004, soaring 63.7 percent from the same period last year, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) reported on Thursday.
CNTA Director He Guangwei said that China is on its way to becoming one of the world’s most powerful tourism nations. In 2003, the number of Chinese traveling abroad surpassed that of Japan, making it the largest in Asia.
Sightseeing in foreign lands was once only fantasy for most Chinese: travel agencies offering international trips for individuals did not even exist until the mid-1980s. In 1988, with the exception of Hong Kong and Macao, Thailand was the only destination outside the mainland that Chinese citizens could visit.
In 2003, China’s average per capita GDP surpassed US$1,000 for the first time, and the total foreign currency savings of Chinese residents topped US$90 billion. These conditions stimulated demand for overseas travel.
The rest of the world is sitting up and taking note of this rapidly growing new market. Many countries, hoping to become destinations, have made it a hot topic at meetings with Chinese diplomats.
There are now 73 areas outside the mainland that are sanctioned tourism destinations for Chinese citizens.
According to the World Tourism Organization, China is one of the world’s top 10 outbound tourism nations. From 1994 to 2003, the cumulative number of outbound Chinese travelers reached nearly 100 million, with an average annual growth rate of 13.9 percent.
From January to July, China hosted 61 million inbound travelers, a rise of 24 percent from the first seven months of 2003. Incoming foreign currency from travel and tourism jumped 45 percent, to US$12.7 billion, in the period.
(Xinhua News Agency September 17, 2004)