Chengdu has emerged as one of China’s top destinations, as more tourists travel to the Chinese city to catch a glimpse of the world-famous giant panda than ever before. The capital of Sichuan Province saw 122 million visitors in 2012, an increase of 26.1 per cent compared with 2011.
Around 80 per cent of the world's pandas can be found in Sichuan, just north of Chengdu. Thousands of visitors are arriving at the Sichuan breeding centre each week to observe the endangered species. Tourists are also heading to the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Wenchuan County, just outside of Chengdu, which houses more than 150 highly endangered giant pandas.
The Wolong Nature Reserve is also home to many other endangered species including red pandas, golden monkeys and white-lipped deer and has over 4,000 different species on record. Since 1980 the nature reserve has successfully bred 66 new panda cubs.
At current, the majority of people visiting Chengdu and its surrounding areas to see pandas are Chinese nationals but a growing number of foreign visitors are starting to take an interest. The capital of Sichuan Province has also recently become the fifth Chinese observation site that the United Nations World Tourism Organization has established to promote sustainable tourism.
Along with the giant pandas, tourists are visiting the city to marvel at its archaeological wonders including the ancient fortress wall, and the Wuhou Shrine and its natural sites such as Mount Qingcheng.
Last year the Chinese tourism industry grew 30 per cent, generating 105 billion Yuan for China’s economy.