China's tourism sector had three prominent features in 2006: Inbound tourism saw steady growth; domestic tourism, spurred by the government's policy of boosting consumer spending, grew rapidly and involved more average residents traveling on a regular basis; and outbound tourism maintained a strong growth momentum, with more flexible means of travel and diversified destinations.
In 2006, the number of inbound tourists to China totaled 124.94 million, a year-on-year rise of 3.9 percent. Of this total, 22.21 million were foreigners, up 9.7 percent; and 102.73 million were Chinese compatriots from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, up 2.7 percent. Of all inbound tourists, overnight visitors counted 49.91 million, up 6.6 percent. Foreign exchange earnings from international tourism topped $33.95 billion, an increase of 15.9 percent. The number of outbound Chinese tourists stood at 34.52 million, up 11.3 percent. Of this total, 28.8 million people were on private visits, a year-on-year rise of 14.6 percent, or 83.4 percent of all outgoing visitors. The year 2006 saw 1.39 billion domestic tourists, up 15 percent. The revenue from domestic tourism totaled 623 billion yuan, an increase of 17.9 percent.
China also began the pilot selection of best tourism cities in Hangzhou, Chengdu and Dalian in 2006, as well as the pilot programs of rating platinum five-star hotels and 5A-class scenic spots. Besides, the year saw the addition of 24 designated famous tourism cities.
So far, 132 countries and regions have become approved tourism destinations for Chinese travelers, with 15 being added on the list in 2006. Of this total, 86 countries and regions have formally put bilateral tourism agreements with China into practice.
China's tourism sector made full use of such platforms as the trilateral ministerial-level tourism conference of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, the Russia Year in China and China Year in Russia, and the China-U.S. Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade to promote external exchanges and cooperation in 2006 and enhanced links with international organizations like the World Tourism Organization, the Asia Pacific Tourism Association and the South Pacific Tourism Organization. Taking advantage of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, both sides have remarkably pushed forward cooperation in the tourism field.
In order to help the realization of mainland residents' landing on Taiwan, the National Tourism Administration, in conjunction with the Ministry of Public Security and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, promulgated the Regulations on the Management of Mainland Travelers to Taiwan in 2006, set up the Association for Cross-Taiwan Strait Tourism Exchanges and conducted technical consultation with Taiwan's unofficial organizations engaged in travel services. The mainland continued holding the Fair for Tourism Operators From the Mainland and Taiwan and the Cross-strait Tourism Exposition, as well as invited a delegation consisting of representatives of travel service providers in the island to participate in the China International Travel Mart. The Association for Cross-Taiwan Strait Tourism Exchanges and the Taiwan Visitors' Association also jointly sponsored an exposition in Taipei, which, with the presence of mainland-based tourism operators, gave a strong boost to bilateral exchanges and cooperation in this field.
With the aim of furthering their exchanges and cooperation, tourism authorities of the mainland and Hong Kong and Macao regions launched regular dialogue mechanisms in 2006. A total of 49 mainland cities have so far implemented the Individual Visit Scheme to Hong Kong and Macao.
In 2006, China remained as the fourth most popular tourist destination worldwide, the world's largest domestic tourism market and the largest tourist exporter in the Asia-Pacific region.