BEIJING, June 1 (Xinhua) -- Huang Meng, a veteran reporter for a Chinese news outlet, still vividly remembers his first trip to Paris in the mid-1990s.
When he entered the pyramid gate of the Louvre Museum, a mecca for Paris visitors, he saw there were free introductory pamphlets for visitors. But none of the handouts were in Chinese and as a result, he was lost in the huge maze of exhibits as he spoke only little English.
Last year, Huang visited France again. This time, he found not only pamphlets in Chinese in the Louvre, but also the museum's Chinese web page. Moreover, some shop assistants at the luxurious Galeries Lafayette department store spoke Mandarin, while hotels with many Chinese guests provided TV channels in their native language.
"I am very exited to hear Chinese spoken and see Chinese signs in Paris. It is convenient for Chinese tourists," Huang said. "And the hospitable French people really make me feel at home."
Huang's experience is not unique among the fast growing numbers of outbound Chinese travelers. While they are influencing the world tourism landscape in economic, cultural and other ways, the destination countries are also adapting themselves to the booming influx of Chinese tourists.
BOOMING CHINESE OUTBOUND TOURISM
Outbound tourism has become a lucrative business for travel agencies in China, and heavy spending by Chinese tourists overseas has contributed to the economies of destination countries.
In 2009, less than 5 percent of China's over 22,000 travel agencies were engaged in the outbound tourism business. But overseas tourism generated 22 percent of China's total tourism revenue, according to the China Tourism Academy (CTA).
The profitable overseas tourism business has been sustained by the rapid growth of Chinese visitors going abroad.
Major tourist destinations across the world have seen surging numbers of Chinese visitors in recent years. In 2010 alone, 57.39 million Chinese traveled abroad, spending 48 billion U.S. dollars overseas, according to CTA figures.
The World Tourism Organization has estimated that the total number of outbound tourists from China would reach 100 million by 2020.
Thailand has long been a popular destination for Chinese tourists. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) says China will become the biggest source of foreign tourists in Thailand in two to three years.
At present, the number of tourists from China ranks third in Thailand, after those from Malaysia and Japan.
"A surge of Chinese tourists in recent years has reshaped Thai tourism considerably. Thai tour companies accordingly try to organize package tours that meet the demands of Chinese tourists," said Sansern Ngao-rangsri, TAT deputy governor for Asia, Oceania and South Pacific.
Thailand is not the only country that is making preparations for the arrival of larger numbers of Chinese visitors.
In Europe, France is among the favorite destinations for Chinese tourists.
"Last year, the official figure of Chinese tourists in France reached 550,000. But the problem is that now with the Schengen Agreement, we don't know exactly how many (Chinese tourists have actually visited France)," said Paul Roll, managing director of the Paris Office du Tourisme et des Congres.
"We feel by 2020, when there are 100 million Chinese visitors (globally), 1 or 2 million will come to Paris, so this obviously means that we need to get prepared," Roll added.
The United States is another important destination for Chinese tourists. The country saw the biggest increase of visitors from China in 2010 with 810,738 travelers, up 53 percent from the previous year, according to U.S. customs authorities.
Kathryn Burnside, director of communications at California Travel and Tourism Commission, told Xinhua that of all the visitors from China, about 60 percent came to California. She admitted that the big inflow of Chinese tourists has helped contribute to the economy in the state.