BEIJING: Chinese tourists continue to spend the most abroad – almost 50% more than US tourists – new research has revealed.

Despite only 6% of Chinese citizens holding a passport, tourists from the world's most populous country are making a big impact in their favourite holiday destinations. Travellers from China have topped spending among all international tourists for the third year in a row, according to a report by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

This revealed that an estimated 13% of all tourist purchases in 2014 were by Chinese nationals – and that number is set to grow as hundreds of millions of Chinese move into the middle class demographic and contemplate overseas holidays.

A Credit Suisse report revealed that in late 2015, China's middle class overtook the US for the first time with a total of 109m adults to the latter's 92m.

And with the Chinese New Year holiday season approaches, more Chinese families are planning on spending the holiday abroad instead of in their hometown. For destination countries, airlines and travel brands, the booming Chinese tourist market is driving fierce competition.

Chinese travellers spent more than $165bn outside of China in 2014, significantly ahead of the next largest spender – the United States, whose international tourists spent $110.8bn overseas. China is also one of the fastest growing travel source markets, with expenditure abroad increasing by 27% in the 12 months to late 2015.

Rising disposable incomes and easing foreign travel restrictions have seen Chinese tourist dollars flood into Asia-Pacific destinations in particular. Though Chinese tourists spend a lower amount per head than American and many European tourists, the sheer number of travellers puts the country on top of the leaderboard.

The fastest growing area for tourism spend is projected to be in Asia-Pacific, where international tourist arrivals – driven by growing demand from China – are forecast to reach 535m by 2030, at an estimated growth rate of almost 5% per year.

Data sourced from World Economic Forum, Telegraph; additional content by Warc staff