Using the 2008 Olympics as its launch pad, China is expected to replace France as the world's top tourism destination by 2014.
Experts interviewed by a foreign news agency said China received 22 million foreign tourists in 2006, excluding arrivals from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, compared to a mere 300,000 in 1978.
They said that while tourism growth in France has been slow, China has been enjoying double-digit expansion for years.
As a result, China, originally expected to overtake France as the number one tourism destination in 2020, is now tipped to do so six years earlier, according to the World Tourism Organisation.
Xu Jing, the organisation's Asia-Pacific representative, said that China was on course to overtake the United States, the world's number three tourist destination, this year in terms of foreign visitor arrivals.
The Asian giant would then pass Spain, number two, by the end of the decade.
Apart from next year's Beijing Olympics, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo is also expected to help China will overtake France by 2014.
The Chinese capital is preparing to receive 500,000 overseas visitors during the 2008 Summer Games from August 8-24, 2008, up from 350,000 visitors in August 2006.
Those Olympic visitors are expected to spend about five billion dollars, according to China's tourist board.
Meanwhile, foreign tour operators and airlines are expanding services to meet growing demand in Beijing and across the country.
This year alone, China's tourism industry is expected to generate 78 billion dollars, 2.5 percent of GDP, a figure that could rise to 277 billion dollars by 2017, according to the World Tourism Organisation.
The broader impact of the thriving sector on the rest of the economy is huge, accounting for 440 billion dollars this year and up to 1.6 trillion dollars by 2017, the World To
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