Foreign tourists don costumes similar to those worn by emperors during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and dance at Jingshan Park at the center of Beijing last month. [Photo / China Daily]
BEIJING - China has overtaken Spain on the list of the world's top tourism destinations, becoming the third-largest attraction, a senior tourism official said at the weekend.
Man Hongwei, director of the international coordination department at the China National Tourism Administration, said at a press conference that the number of international arrivals staying at least one night reached 55.66 million last year, up 9.4 percent on 2009.
China's appearance in the top three was its first. It follows France, which had 78.95 million arrivals, and the United States, which had 60.88 million, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
The spending by outbound Chinese tourists ranked fourth-largest worldwide last year. The number of outbound travelers hit 57.39 million in 2010, which was up 20.4 percent year-on-year.
The industry's total revenue maintained an annual average growth of 15 percent during the past five years, he said.
Xu Daoming, general manager of the marketing department at the China Travel Service, said his company saw robust growth in inbound tourism last year.
"The Shanghai Expo and the Asian Games in Guangzhou were major reasons for the increased momentum that moved the flagging inbound travel market out of the shadow of the international financial crisis," Xu said.
Tourists from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao were joined by tourists from countries including Japan, Vietnam and India to drive up growth in 2010, he said. There has also been an obvious increase in the number of tourists arriving from Russia and the US.
Zhao Huanyan, a tourism industry expert at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said that the reshuffle of the global tourism industry will benefit China's booming tourism sectors and those who understand the prospering tourism market in Asia.
Zhou said luxury hotels such as those of the Hong Kong-based Shangri-la hotel group are a good example, employing strategies to open hotels in popular destinations on the Chinese mainland to accommodate in-bound visitors and in other countries and regions that are popular with Chinese travelers.
Earlier, the UN World Tourism Organization forecast that China has the potential to pass France as the largest destination by 2015.
But, despite the promise, Shao Qiwei, head of the National Tourism Administration of China, warned that the tourism industry is fragile and can be impacted by natural disasters, epidemic diseases and emergencies.
He said, against such a backdrop, the tourism industry in the Asia Pacific region should strengthen cooperation to maintain the vitality of the region, which is the world's fastest-growing tourism destination as a whole.