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China aims to become world's leading tourist destination

China, already the world'sfifth most popular tourist destination, plans to be the global leader by 2020.

Sun Gang, deputy-director of the China National Tourism Administration, made the remarks here to Asian tourism industry professionals in the Boao Forum for Asia -- Tourism Conference, which just concluded in this scenic tourist spot in southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

"China's current ranking in world tourism demonstrates its status as a major tourism destination," Sun said. "The developmentof China's tourism industry constitutes an important part in the country's process of building a well-off society."

According to information from China's State Administration of Statistics, overseas tourist arrivals in 2001 totaled 89.01 million, a rise of 6.7 percent over the previous year. Travelers staying longer than one night reached 33.16 million, the fifth largest number in the world.

The overseas tourists brought 17.79 billion US dollars to the region, a yearly increase of 9.7 percent, making China the fifth largest earner of foreign currency from tourism for the first time.

In the first nine months of this year, China received 28.12 million travelers, up 14.8 percent from the same period last year.

Chinese tourism professionals believed these results are both the start-up points and a solid foundation for China to build itself as a world-class tourism destination.

China's tourist infrastructure construction development and management have seen all-round improvement during the past 20 years. The latest statistics show that by the end of 2001, China had put 780 billion yuan into tourism fixed assets investment and had 288,000 tourism enterprises, 274,000 hotels and inns, and morethan 10,000 travel services.

China has issued 17 sets of tourism industry standards, achieving fruitful results in tourism standardization.

All these efforts put China's tourism on an international level.   

Tourism has become a new niche of growth for the Chinese economy. The total tourism related income brings an average annual growth of 12 percent, or five percentage points higher than the GDP growth of the same period. China's tourism earns 499.5 billion yuan, or 5.2 percent of China's GDP. The foreign currency earning is expected to hit 20 billion US dollars. China is expected to earn 30 billion US dollars from tourism in five years.

The holiday economy, initiated by China, has become a booster of China's tourism industry. Last year in the three "seven-day vacations" for the Chinese New Year, May Day and National Day, China's domestic travelers reached 200 million. The tourist incomeduring these periods was 73.6 billion yuan. The holiday tourism gave an injection into the accommodation, transportation, shopping and catering industries, generating shopping sprees and driving the domestic demand.

"Out-bound traveling has become a must for the Chinese people in their well-to-do life," Sun said.

The industry also played an active role in promoting the sustained economic, social and environmental development, job creation and poverty alleviation.

"China is one of the first countries in the world to eradicate poverty through tourism development," said Wu Bihu, a doctor with the Beijing University Tourism Development and Planning Research Center. "Thanks to the development of tourism and related industries, a great number of people in such poverty-stricken areas as Yunnan and Guangxi finally solved the problem of feeding and clothing themselves."

Experts estimate that the labor-intensive tourism industry has created 35 million direct or indirect job opportunities in the past 10 years in China.

More importantly, China's tourism has become an integral part of world tourism. According to the estimation of the World Tourism Organization (WTO), China will become the world's largest host country and the fourth largest to send tourists abroad by 2020.

In this year alone, according to the WTO, about 10 million Chinese will spend 18 billion US dollars traveling to other Asian destinations. In the year 2020, Chinese outbound travelers are expected to reach 100 million, a figure equal to the outbound travelers of all other Asian destinations combined.

China still lags behind the current world-class tourist destinations, such as Britain, France and the United States, Sun said, adding that the development of its rich tourism resources, the management of tourism enterprises and promotion still remain low.

"There is still a long period of time before 2020, and I believe the current gap will be gradually narrowed," he said. Enditem

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