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WTO predicts record year

The World Tourism Organisation has issued a bold prediction of record-breaking tourism levels this year.

The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) has predicted that global travel will break all previous records this year.

International traveller numbers are expected to hit nearly 900 million in 2007, which would represent a 5.7 per cent year-on-year increase, AFP reports.

One of the strongest trends that is expected to emerge this year is the growth of China as a tourism destination, with the 49.6 million foreign visitors in 2006 expected to climb further.

Explaining the changing dynamics of the worldwide tourism industry, WTO secretary general Francesco Frangialli said: "China has already passed Italy and this year or next it will pass the United States and will be ahead of Spain in two or three years.

"France has a little more breathing room but will probably be overtaken around 2015 rather than 2020."

As well as welcoming more overseas visitors, the Asian country is also expected to contribute more strongly to foreign industries, with some 100 million Chinese tourists expected to travel abroad in 2020, compared to 34 million last year.

The WTO's figures show that the US was the biggest earner from tourism in 2006, with revenue of $85.7 billion (£41.5 billion), followed by Spain (£24.8 billion) and France (£20.8 billion).

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