China is consolidating its status as Asia's largest outbound tourism market
as 28.55 million people travelled abroad in the first 10 months of this year.
The State Tourism Administration said on its website that the number is 10.8
per cent more than for the same period last year.
Shao Qiwei, head of the administration, said it is a result of the tourism
industry's opening up since China's entry into the World Trade Organization
(WTO) in 2001.
Mainland travellers can now visit 132 countries and regions, up from 18 in
2001, including the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.
In 2001, 12.13 million Chinese travelled overseas. Last year, the number
soared to 31 million.
In the past five years, China has overtaken Japan to become the largest
source of outbound travellers in Asia.
The administration, however, has not provided figures on the expenditure of
Chinese outbound travellers.
In the latest list of the world's leading outbound tourism markets, based on
statistics in 2004, the World Tourism Organization placed China behind Japan in
terms of expenditure.
China ranked seventh and Japan 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.
They include allowing foreign capital to open wholly-owned hotels and
restaurants, allowing foreign capital to hold major shares in travel agencies,
and open wholly-funded travel agencies.
There are now 49 overseas hotel brands and 25 foreign-funded travel agencies
Foreign-funded travel agencies are allowed to run inbound tours, but are not
permitted to organize outbound tours yet.
Next year, China will allow foreign-funded travel agencies to set up branches
and lower the registry capital demand for foreign travel agencies to the same
level as domestic ones.
The administration also mentioned on the website that China has a huge
domestic travel market.
At least 1.21 billion person-times of Chinese travelled
within the country last year, an increase of 53 per cent over 2001.