China became the third most visited country in the world in 2010, moving ahead of Spain in the rankings. China now trails only France and the USA in terms of the total number of international arrivals spending at least one night in the country. China had over 55 million such visitors last year, which was a more than 9% increase on 2009. Most visitors came from Asia, with neighbours South Korea, Japan and Russia being the three biggest sources of visitors. Of the Western countries, the USA provided the most visitors with just over two million, Canada was next with about 690 000, and Australia was third with around 660 000 visits.
The most popular destinations for foreign tourists were Guangdong Province (7.33 million visits) and Shanghai (5.93 million visits). These figures were no doubt boosted by the Asian Games in Guangzhou and the Shanghai Expo. Beijing was the fifth most popular province/municipality (4.22 milion visits).
The news of China’s bronze-medal winning performance led to a whole lot of positive hyperbole about the Chinese tourism industry. According to Xinhua, The United Nations World Tourism Organisation even revised their previous forecast of China being the world’s number one tourist destination by 2020, to say China could overtake France by 2015.