Chinese tourists spent 12% more travelling abroad in 2016 than in 2015, according to figures from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer reports growth in spending on international travel from China outstripped the other top-five spending countries – the US, Germany, the UK and France.

Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General, described the latest data as “very encouraging”. He said: “Despite the many challenges, the results are consistent with the 4% growth to 1.2 billion international tourist arrivals reported for 2016.

“People continue to have a strong appetite for travel and this benefits many countries around the world, translating into economic growth, job creation and opportunities for development.”

International tourism expenditure in China grew by $11 billion to $261 billion, or by 12% in local currency.

The number of outbound travellers rose 6% to 135 million when Chinese visitors to Hong Kong and Macao are included.

The UNWTO reported: “The growth from China benefited many destinations in Asia and the Pacific, most notably Japan, the Republic of Korea and Thailand, but also long-haul destinations such as the US and several [states] in Europe.”

Other Asian outbound markets also showed positive results. The Republic of Korea and Australia reported 8% growth year on year in outbound spending, to $27 billion apiece, while Hong Kong saw 5% growth to $24 billion.

US spending on international travel also rose 8% year on year to $122 billion in 2016, fuelled by the strong US dollar.

Germany, the UK, France and Italy led tourism spending in Europe, with Germany reporting 5% growth to $81 billion.

The UNWTO figures confirmed the residual strength of demand in the UK despite an 18% reduction in the value of the British pound over the second half of 2016.

The total number of UK residents’ trips abroad increased by 7% on 2015 to 70 million, with spending close to $64 billion.

France reported 7% growth in tourism expenditure to $41 billion, and Italy recorded 1% growth to $25 billion.

Among other source markets, nine recorded double-digit growth in spending in 2016: Vietnam (+28%), Argentina (+26%), Egypt (+19%), Spain (+17%), India (+16%), Israel and Ukraine (+12%), and Qatar and Thailand (+11%).

However, spending by Russian and Brazilian travellers declined year on year.