Tourism in China has greatly expanded over the last few decades since the beginning of reform and opening. The emergence of a newly rich middle class and an easing of restrictions on movement by the Chinese authorities are both fueling this travel boom. China has become one of the world's most-watched and hottest inbound and outbound tourist markets. The world is on the cusp of a sustained Chinese tourism boom.
China is the third most visited country in the world. The number of overseas tourists was 55.98 million in 2010. Foreign exchange income was 45.8 billion U.S. dollars, the world's fourth largest in 2010. The number of domestic tourist visits totaled 1.61 billion, with a total income of 777.1 billion yuan.
According to the WTO, in 2020, China will become the largest tourist country and among the largest for overseas travel. In terms of total outbound travel spending, China is expected to be the fastest growing in the world from 2006 all the way to 2015, jumping into the number two slot for total travel spending by 2015.
China's growing economy is also generating a surge in business travel. In China, the percentage of sales dependent on business travel is higher (38%) as compared to the US (21%) and 28% in the UK, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council's 2013 business travel forecast for the Asia-Pacific region.
Between 1949 and 1974, the People's Republic was closed to all but selected foreign visitors. In the late 1970s, when Deng Xiaoping decided to promote tourism vigorously as a means of earning foreign exchange, China started to develop its tourist industry. Major hotel construction programs greatly increased the number of hotels and guest houses, more historic and scenic spots were renovated and opened to tourists, and professional guides and other service personnel were trained.
The expansion of domestic and international airline traffic and other tourist transportation facilities made travel more convenient. Over 250 cities and counties had been opened to foreign visitors by the mid-1980s. Travelers needed only valid visas or residence permits to visit 100 locations; the remaining locales required travel permits from public security departments. In 1985 approximately 1.4 million foreigners visited China, and nearly US$1.3 billion was earned from tourism.
China has become a major tourist destination following its reform and opening to the world in the late 1970s instigated by Deng Xiaoping. In 1978, China received about 230,000 international foreign tourists, mostly because of the severe limitations that the government placed on who was allowed to visit the country and who was not. In 2006 China received 49.6 million international visitors, making it the fourth most-visited country in the world. In 2007 international tourist arrivals to China increased to 54.7 million.
Most tourists to China in 2016
Some form of Chinese is virtually universal in China, with Mandarin as the standard form and many other varieties also in use; some, like Cantonese and Shanghainese, have tens of millions of speakers. Although many Chinese do not speak English, due to the educational system, many Chinese near and in urban areas can read and write it, even though they may have difficulty with spoken English.
Hainan Island, sometimes referred to as "Hawaii of the Orient" is located off the south coast of mainland China. It hosts most of China's tropical resorts, and because of this, is extremely popular with mainland Chinese, as well as those from Hong Kong and nearby Asian countries. During the past few years, the Chinese government has heavily promoted Hainan Island as a world class resort with beaches and golf courses which are plentiful on Hainan Island. In addition, the ability to visit traditional Li and Miao cultural villages, hike among lush tropical rain forests and mountainsides, and visit significant cultural artifacts from long ago dynasties, has had a significant effect on tourism on the island. The Chinese and Hainan governments intend to continue to spend a great deal of money on infrastructure (December 2004 completion of Hainan to mainland China train; and, around the island expressways for cars and buses) and promotion of Hainan Island.
Tourist resources in China can be divided into three main groups: natural sites, historical and cultural sites, and folk customs.
China's mountains, lakes, valleys, caves and waterfalls:
Mount Tai (Tai Shan) in the east, Mount Hengshan in the south, Mount Hua in the west, Mount Hengshan in the north, and Mount Song in the center of China have been called the Five Sacred Mountains since antiquity. The Taishan massif, which snakes through central Shandong, is admired by Chinese as paramount among them. Another mountain celebrated for its beauty is Huangshan in southern Anhui, known for its graceful pines, unusual rocks, cloud seas and hot springs.