China world's third most visited country: UN

China has replaced Spain as the world's third most visited country, behind France and the United States, figures from the UN World Tourism Organisation showed Wednesday.

China had 55.98 million international arrivals last year, up 10 percent, edging past Spain, which received some 53 million foreign tourists, a rise of 1.4 percent, according to figures released by the Madrid-based body.

France remained in top spot, with 78.95 million visitors, followed by the the United States with 60.88 million, up 2.8 percent and 10.9 percent respectively.

In 2008, the United States overtook Spain to become the number two destination.

The UNWTO said previously that global tourism rebounded strongly from the economic crisis, jumping 6.7 percent in 2010 on the back of strong growth in emerging economies, such as China.

"It is clear that the strong players of Asia are going to continue to be the strong players, not only China, but particularly China," UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said last week.

"The world is changing, the geopolitics of the world is changing, the centres of gravity are changing and we can't expect tourism to be away from that."

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