The National Tourism Administration (NTA) told the 1st China Tourism Investment Fair on November 1 that China could attract more tourists than anywhere else in the world in 2017, three years earlier than the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)'s forecast.
According to Xinhua News Agency, the UNWTO previously predicted China would receive 137 million overnight inbound tourists in 2020.
"The goal may be achieved three years in advance," Zhang Jilin, deputy director of the NTA's Planning, Development and Financial Department, told the fair's attendees in Ningbo City, east China's Zhejiang Province.
The mainland received 41.76 million overseas overnight tourists last year, ranking fourth in the world, and tourism revenue was US$25.7 billion, seventh in the world, according to a report issued by the NTA.
The number of Chinese tourists traveling nationwide reached 1.1 billion last year, 27 percent more than the previous year.
The report also said that about 28.85 million Chinese people traveled overseas last year, making China the largest source of tourists in Asia.
Gu Chaoxi, NTA deputy director, was also very optimistic about China's tourism, "China is forging ahead toward becoming a world tourism power."
In the first eight months of this year, the number of outbound tourists totaled 20.46 million, a year-on-year increase of 10 percent. It is estimated that the number of outbound Chinese tourists will reach 50 million by 2010.
Tourist arrivals to China from January to August came to 30.89 million, up 15 percent over the same period last year.
Currently, more than 6 million people work in China's tourism sector and the number is expected to increase by more than 500,000 annually over the next five years, the NTA said.
Gu said it is predicted that China's investment in the industry will amount to 1.9 trillion yuan (US$235 billion) by 2010 and will exceed 6 trillion yuan (US$742 billion) by 2020.
The Xinhua report did not account for the difference between the two organizations’ predictions.
(Xinhua News Agency November 4, 2005)