A senior official with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said Sunday China is expected to become the world's largest tourist destination by 2015.
"China, as we predict, is going to become the world's No. 1 tourist destination by the year 2015," said Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the UNWTO.
"China is almost there. It is now the world's fourth largest destination when it comes to incoming tourists, and the rates of growth are moving so quickly that we think this is a realistic target," Rifai said.
France is currently the country receiving the most international tourists, at 80 million per year, followed by the United States and Spain, both at 60 million a year, while China has about 48 million, he said.
"China's tourism economy has moved incredibly in the last ten years. The number of incoming tourists rose from 8 million to 48 million. The potential of the growth is still big because of the size of China," Rifai said.
Rifai said the global tourism industry is improving but challenges remain due to the weak economy.
"The tourism industry has to follow and is very much affected by the general economic situation, and for sure the general economic situation has started to turn around. But we cannot call it a full recovery at the moment," he said.