China has become a major driving force for the tourism in countries and regions along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, according to a UN World Tourism Organization's (UNWTO) report released on Monday.
The number of tourists in the areas along the Road grew from 775,000 in 2012 to nearly 3.1 million in 2016, with 2.1 million coming from China, the report said.
Released at the Belt and Road tourist city mayors' summit in Zhengzhou, capital of central China's Henan Province, the report focused on maritime heritage and cruises, and examined implications for UNWTO members.
"As a component of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is expected to play a vital role for the maritime infrastructure development through regional cooperation, and it has a potential to favour the establishment of new maritime routes based on the ancient Maritime Silk Road heritage," said Robert Travers, a consultant with the UNWTO Silk Road Program and author of the report.
Primarily associated with inland routes, the historic silk road comprises an extensive network of maritime itineraries, offering exceptional experiences, heritage and culture, Travers said.
The aggregate scale of international tourism along the Belt and Road accounts for around 70 percent of the global total, said Li Jinzao, China's vice minister of culture and tourism at the summit.
During the 2016-2020 period, China is expected to receive more than 85 million tourists from countries along the Belt and Road, while more Chinese tourists will travel to these countries as well, Li added.