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China rising in travel hotspot league

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (WTO) predicts that it will become the third most popular travel destination within the next two years.

Last year, some 49.6 million tourists visited the country, while its number of outbound travellers remained as high as ever.

Francesco Frangialli, secretary general of the WTO, said: "After having overtaken Italy as the fourth-ranking world destination in terms of arrivals in 2004, [China] should move up to third place this year - or in 2008 at the latest."

France, Spain and the US currently sit atop the inbound travellers table, but tourism officials expect China to soon overtake the 51.1 million tourists that visited the States last year.

"By 2020, China will have been the world's leading tourist destination for several years," Mr Frangialli said.

He also predicted that the whole of Asia is set to see a significant boost in inbound travellers in the near future.