China is World's Third Most Popular Tourist Destination

Beijing, April 12 (IANS) Do you know the land of the Great Wall is more popular tourist destination than the Alps of Switzerland? The UN has recently ranked China as the world's third most popular tourist destination.

It has overtaken Spain to take the third spot on the list of the world's most favourite tourist destinations prepared by the UN World Tourism Organization.

France with 78.95 million foreign tourist arrivals topped the list while the US came second with 60.88 million.

Last year, the number of foreign tourists in China reached 55.66 million, up 9.4 percent compared to 2009, said Man Hongwei, director of the international coordination department at the China National Tourism Administration.

The industry maintained an annual average revenue growth of 15 percent during the past five years, China Daily quoted Man as saying. The number of outbound Chinese tourists hit 57.39 million in 2010, up 20.4 percent year-on-year.

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 inbound travel market out of the shadow of the international financial crisis," Xu said.

Tourists from Taiwan, Macao, Japan, Vietnam and India, among others, have kept up the growth momentum in 2010, he said. There has also been an increase in the number of tourists arriving from Russia and the US, he added.

Zhao Huanyan, a tourism industry expert at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said the new ranking will benefit the booming tourism sector in China.

He said luxury hotels such as the Hong Kong-based Shangri-la hotel group are a good example, employing strategies to open hotels in popular destinations in China and in other countries and regions, and attracting in-bound and out-bound Chinese travellers.

The UN tourism agency has forecast that China could surpass France as the world's largest tourist destination by 2015.

However, Shao Qiwei, head of the National Tourism Administration of China, has a word of caution: The tourism industry is fragile and can be impacted by natural disasters, disease epidemic and emergencies.

He said that against such a backdrop, the tourism industry in the Asia Pacific region should boost cooperation to get good result. The Asia Pacific region is currently the world's fastest-growing tourism destination, according to the daily.


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