BEIJING (Reuters) - China will grab the world's second-largest share of global travel and tourism spending after the United States by 2016, an industry body said in a report published this week.
"We're all running very fast to keep up with the changes that are taking place," the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) quoted its president, Jean-Claude Baumgarten, as saying at the launch of the group's report just three years after its last one.
"Although we would normally wait five or even 10 years before returning to a country to update the report, it is clear that China's travel and tourism industry is moving at the speed of light," he said.
The WTTC report for China, Hong Kong and Macau forecast that China's tourism demand -- comprised of consumption, investment, government spending and exports -- will grow by an average 8.7 percent per annum between 2007 and 2016.
It said China's tourism demand will grow by 14 percent this year alone to 2.77 trillion yuan ($345.7 billion).
Foreign visitors' spending will account for 588.2 billion yuan ($73.41 billion), representing 7.4 percent of China's total exports in 2006, the report said.
Travel and tourism will directly account for 2.9 percent of China's total GDP in 2006, and its combined direct and indirect economic impact is expected to account for 13.7 percent.
China's tourism industry will directly employ over 17 million people, with related employment from capital investment and government spending to total over 77 million jobs in 2006.
The report made a raft of recommendations to improve China's tourism and travel industry, including establishing paid vacations to encourage Chinese workers to travel more and promoting English language skills.
Despite the rapid growth of the country's tourism industry, China remains a challenging destination for international visitors due to poor infrastructure and a dearth of foreign language skills. ($1=8.012 Yuan)