China to become 3rd biggest travel destination

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-19 09:35

QINGDAO, Shandong: China is likely to replace the United States as the world's third most popular tourism destination next year, a United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) official said.

At present, China ranks fourth, after France, Spain and the United States.

Last year, China accounted for 5.8 percent of the global tourism market, a growth of 0.3 percent compared with two years ago.

Twenty-nine percent of tourists who traveled to Asia and the Pacific last year also visited China.

Xu Jing, regional representative for Asia and the Pacific of UNWTO, said the market share percentages of China and the US last year were very close.

"I am confident China will overtake the US next year," he said at the 2007 China (Qingdao) International Olympics & Tourism Forum, which concluded on Friday.

UNWTO forecast last year that China would become the most popular destination by the year 2020. At the beginning of this year, it revised its forecast to 2015. Xu said the forecast was revised because of the rapid development of the country's tourism industry.

The number of overseas travelers to China has increased from 10.5 million in 1996 to 49 million in 2006. The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, will further boost China's tourism market.

The Pacific and Asia Travel Association said inbound tourism to China will increase by 5 percent year-on-year between 2007 and 2009.

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