China could surpass Spain as the world's second most popular tourist destination by 2010, and draw level with France by 2020, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation said.
Visitors climb the Great Wall at Badaling, China, 01 January 2007. Global tourism hit a record high last year and China could soon surpass Spain as the world's second most popular destination, after France, the UN World Tourism Organization said. [AFP/File]
The Madrid-based UN body released preliminary 2006 figures which showed that visits to China were up an annual six percent at 49.6 million, and despite an appreciating yuan.
Spanish arrivals rose 4.5 percent to 58.4 million but Chinese growth is forecast to accelerate and ultimately overtake the Spanish in the coming four years, according to UNWTO head Francesco Frangialli and John Kester, director of market intelligence and promotion.
"A country as big as China has more tourist capacity. China is generating a flux of tourism in the region," said Kester, while Frangialli forecast that China "could surpass Spain by 2010."
Frangialli said China, with its "great tourist capacity," was also on track to surpass France, the world's most popular tourist destination, by 2020.
Figures for France were not immediately available but were expected to be almost unchanged on 75.9 million for 2006.
The Chinese are also doing their bit for the sector by visiting, as well as being visited.
A report from the UNWTO last year estimated Chinese tourists visiting foreign destinations would number 100 million by 2020, having already risen from 20 million in 2003 to 31 million by 2005.
Chinese tourist spending abroad rose 14 percent in 2005 to 21.8 billion dollars (17 billion euros) compared with 2004 and provisional figures showed another 16 percent rise last year.
"China is consolidating its status as Asia's largest outbound tourism market as 34.5 million Chinese travelled abroad in 2006," for an 11 percent rise on 2005, the UNWTO said, quoting the Ministry of Public Security.
(China Daily via AFP January 30, 2007)