Madrid, Jan 30: Global tourism hit a record high last year and China could soon surpass Spain as the world's
second most popular destination, after France, the UN world tourism organization said today.
A 4.5 percent global rise in tourist numbers pushed the 2006 figure to a record 842 million, the Madrid-based United Nations agency said, forecasting an increase of 4.0 per cent for 2007.
As well as sending millions of tourists abroad in recent years, China is set to receive more visitors than Spain by
2010, UNWTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli said.
"With its great tourist capacity it could surpass Spain by 2010," he said.
Frangialli said India was also rising in popularity as a tourist destination, accounting for half of the 8.8 million
visitors to South Asia, which saw 10.1 percent growth in 2006.
UNWTO figures for 2006 showed arrivals to China had increased six per cent on the previous year at 49.6 million,
despite higher costs due to an appreciating yuan, which gained some six per cent on the dollar in the 18 months to the
end of 2006.
Spain's tourist intake rose 4.5 per cent to 58.4 million in 2006, but Chinese growth is forecast to accelerate and
overtake Spain in the coming four years, the UNWTO said.
"A country as big as china has more tourist capacity. China is generating a flux of tourism in the region," said John Kester, UNWTO Director of Market Intelligence and Promotion.
Figures for France in 2006 were not immediately available but the UNWTO expects almost no change on the 75.9 million
visitors in 2005.