Modern tourism in China sprang up in the early 1950s. In 1954, the China International Travel Service was established, with 14 branches in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and other major cities. In 1964, the State Tourism Administration of China was formally established. Since the initiation of the policies of reform and opening to the outside world in 1978, China's tourism has entered a stage of rapid development. In 1999, the number of tourists entering China reached 72.8 million, of which 8.43 million were foreign tourists, 40 times the figure for 1978. Consequently, the foreign exchange income from this industry reached US$14.1 billion, 54 times that of 1978.
Currently, China has become an important tourism destination in Asia, and the fifth large tourism country in the world. Domestic tourism is also growing vigorously. In 1999, the number of domestic tourists reached 719 million, spending a total of 283.2 billion yuan-14.3 percent and 105.9 percent increases over 1995, respectively. With the improvement of the Chinese people's living standards, Chinese citizens have an increasingly strong interest in traveling abroad. In recent years, Chinese citizens have traveled to Southeast Asia and Europe. Foreign travel agencies are now opening offices in China to attract Chinese to travel abroad.
Now, China is fast on its way to becoming a country with developed tourism, and constantly improving tourism facilities and services. It is estimated that, by 2020, China will be the world's No. 1 tourism destination and the fourth-largest nation of tourists.