China surpasses France as tourism spender: UN tourism body

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China overtook France to occupy the fourth place last year in the ranking of the world's top international tourism spenders, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation said Wednesday.

Chinese tourists splurged 43.7 billion dollars on their travels abroad in 2009 despite the economic downturn, propping up other economies by eating out, occupying hotel rooms and visiting attractions, it said in its latest bulletin.

That compares to 36.2 million dollars in the previous year when China was the world's fifth biggest source of tourism spending.

"In crisis-ridden 2009 expenditure still increased by a whopping 21 percent," the Madrid-based body said.

"Of the other nine top spenders only one recorded positive growth. Just the Netherlands, occupying the 10th position, increased spending by a very modest 0.4 percent."

Germany remained the world's top international tourism spender last year, spending 80.8 billion dollars on their travels, down from 91 billion dollars in the previous year, followed by the United States and Britain.

While most of China's 1.3 billion people live on just a few dollars a day, the country is producing a burgeoning middle class that can dwarf the populations of many other countries and who are eager to travel abroad.

The World Tourism Organisation estimated that the number of Chinese tourists visiting foreign destinations will number 100 millions by 2020, up from from 31 million in 2005.

"China has been the fastest grower with regard to expenditure on international tourism in the last decade, ranking only seventh in 2005," it said.

While most overseas trips by Chinese are to other Asian destinations, they are increasingly heading to Europe and the United States as visa rules have eased.

In 2007 China issued advice for the record number of its citizens who are traveling overseas.

The list of holiday dos and don'ts says tourists should avoid shouting and drawing attention to themselves, and respect local culture and traditions.

© 2010 AFP

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