China is furthering its status as Asia's largest outbound tourism market as 28.55 million people traveled abroad in the first 10 months of this year.
The State Tourism Administration revealed this is a 10.8 percent growth year-on-year.
Shao Qiwei, head of the administration, said this is due to the tourism industry's opening-up since China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.
Mainland travelers can now visit 130 countries, up from 16 in 2001.
In 2001, 12.13 million Chinese traveled overseas; the number surged to 31 million last year.
In the past five years, China has overtaken Japan to become the largest source of outbound travelers in Asia.
The administration, however, has not provided figures on the expenditure of Chinese outbound travelers.
In the latest list of the world's leading outbound tourism markets, based on 2004 statistics, the World Tourism Organization placed China seventh in terms of expenditure behind Japan in fourth.
China is also gaining appeal as a top tourist destination. Official statistics show that China received 46.8 million tourists last year, ranking fourth globally. The tourists spent a total of US$29.3 billion, placing China sixth globally.
In the past five years, China has been fulfilling or has fulfilled, its tourism sector promises in accordance with WTO requirements.
These include allowing foreign capital to be used to open wholly-owned hotels, restaurants and travel agencies as well as holding major shares in travel agencies.
There are now 49 overseas hotel brands and 25 foreign-funded travel agencies in China.
Foreign-funded travel agencies are allowed to run inbound tours, but are not yet permitted to organize outbound tours yet.
Next year, China will allow foreign-funded travel agencies to set up branches and will level the playing field in terms of registry capital demand for foreign travel agencies.
The administration also mentioned on its website that China has a huge domestic travel market.
At least 1.21 billion Chinese person-times traveled within the country last year, an increase of 53 percent over 2001.
(China Daily December 14, 2006)