Tourism in China

Tourism in China

China recorded a total of 30 million tourists in 2020, ranking 11th in the world in absolute terms.

The fact that larger countries regularly perform better in a comparison of the absolute number of guests is obvious. By putting the tourist numbers in relation to the population of China, the result is much more comparable picture: With 0.022 tourists per resident, China ranked 169th in the world. In East Asia, it ranked 5th.

In 2018, China generated around 40.39 billion US dollars in the tourism sector alone. This corresponds to 0.23 percent of its the gross domestic product and approximately 21 percent of all international tourism receipts in East Asia.

A global comparison can be found here › International tourism

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Most popular destinations in China

No less than 7 cities in China are among the top 100 most popular destinations worldwide. In 2019, Hong Kong reached the 1st place with 26.72 million tourists. According to Euromonitor, all foreign tourists with at least one overnight stay were counted.

Hong Kong26,716,800#1-8.7%

Tourism in ChinaOn average, each of the tourists arriving in 2018 spent about 215 US dollars. Conversely, the inhabitants of China spend as much as 1,566 dollars a year when they themselves spend vacations abroad.

The most popular destinations in China are mainly:
  • Beijing with the Forbidden City, Tian'anmen Square and many other historical attractions.
  • Shanghai with numerous shopping malls and the exciting skyline
  • the Great Wall of China
  • the former imperial city of Xian, famous for the Terracotta Army, among other things
  • Tibet with its imposing Himalayan mountains
  • the tropical island of Hainan in the South China Sea south of Hong Kong

Development of the tourism sector in China from 1995 to 2020

The following chart shows the number of tourist arrivals registered in China each year. Anyone who spends at least one night in the country but does not live there for more than 12 months is considered a tourist. Insofar as the survey included the purpose of the trip, business trips and other non-tourism travel purposes have already been excluded. The number of people passing through within the same day, and e.g., crew members of ships or flights are also not considered tourists in most countries. If the same person travels in and out more than once within the same year, each visit counts again.

Data in the chart are given in millions of tourists. The red line represents the average of all 6 countries in East Asia.

Tourists per year in China

Revenues from tourism

In 1995, tourism revenues amounted to 8.73 billion USD, or about 1.2 percent of the gross national product. This corresponded to about 46.39 million tourists at that time and roughly 188 USD per person. Within 23 years, the country's dependence on tourism has decreased substantially. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales were $40.39 billion billion, 0.29 percent of gross national product. Thus, each visitor spent an average of $255 on their vacation in China.

Full figures for 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, are not currently available. However, national and international travel has been restricted worldwide, and some countries have even been closed off from the outside world altogether. Dramatic revenue losses are expected, with some countries experiencing losses of up to more than 80%.

Tourism receipts in China per year

All data for China in detail

YearNumber of touristsReceipts% of GNPReceipts per tourist
202030.40 m
2019162.54 m
2018158.61 m40.39 bn $0.29 %255 $
2017153.26 m38.56 bn $0.31 %252 $
2016141.77 m44.43 bn $0.40 %313 $
2015133.82 m44.97 bn $0.41 %336 $
2014128.50 m44.04 bn $0.42 %343 $
2013129.08 m51.66 bn $0.54 %400 $
2012132.41 m50.03 bn $0.59 %378 $
2011135.42 m48.46 bn $0.64 %358 $
2010133.76 m45.81 bn $0.75 %343 $
2009126.48 m39.68 bn $0.78 %314 $
2008130.03 m40.84 bn $0.89 %314 $
2007131.87 m37.23 bn $1.0 %282 $
2006124.94 m33.95 bn $1.2 %272 $
2005120.29 m29.30 bn $1.3 %244 $
2004109.04 m27.76 bn $1.4 %255 $
200391.66 m18.71 bn $1.1 %204 $
200297.91 m21.74 bn $1.5 %222 $
200189.01 m19.01 bn $1.4 %214 $
200083.44 m17.32 bn $1.4 %208 $
199972.80 m15.01 bn $1.4 %206 $
199863.48 m13.23 bn $1.3 %208 $
199757.59 m12.63 bn $1.3 %219 $
199651.13 m10.20 bn $1.2 %199 $
199546.39 m8.73 bn $1.2 %188 $

Our data on tourist numbers, revenues and expenditures are based on information from the World Tourism Organization. However, to ensure international comparability, the data for some years or countries were manually researched and corrected if they obviously included visitors without overnight stays. In these cases, the data were taken from the official communications of the respective national tourism authorities.

The World Tourism Organization additionally points out that in some countries, the number of tourists is only counted at airports, while in others they are also counted at border crossings or even hotels. A comprehensive and reliable indication is therefore hardly possible in any country.

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