As the most important element in urban tourism, urban destinations have played key roles in tourism development in China since the Reform Era. This paper uses the data of 28 major cities in China from 1982 to 2001, with reference to China Tourism Statistics from 1989 to 2001, to analyze the status change and the factors for the change in Chinese urban destinations. The change is evaluated both quantitatively and qualitatively. Among the top ten urban attractions with the most tourist arrivals in 1982,1989 and 2001, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou continue to be the most important destinations in China. On the other hand, tourism in Dalian, Kunming and Xiamen have developed very rapidly in the past 20 years. Zhuhai is a special case because the number of tourists hardly changed during this period. It is argued that most tourists to Zhuhai are from Hong Kong and Macao, where the tourists are stable and up to re-visit Zhuhai. This paper also discusses the impacts of the changing driving forces from urban tourism. Firstly, the driving mechanism of tourism exerts some influences on urban destinations, such as tourist behavior, urban attractions and port policies. Secondly, the change in urban destinations is related to the changes in urban functions and status. It seems that urban destinations in eastern China have developed better than those in the western China, in response to the pattern in economic development. Lastly, the competition between new urban destinations and traditional urban destinations also plays a part in the development of urban destinations.
Xiamen and Dalian represent those in the eastern China while Kunming is an example of those in the western China. Both such new urban attractions have increased rapidly since 1989. Urban destinations of the same type are compared to build some models on the time-space scale. The spatial concentration index (SCI) of tourist arrivals of 28 major tourist cities indicates a drop of 41.8% from 55.0 in 1982 to 32.1 in 2001, which means that during the last 20 years, the number of urban tourists has increased, and the spatial structure of urban destinations has become more stable especially after 1989. In addition, Shenzhen is an important urban destination in its change of status and represents a model for urban areas with little tourist resource. With changing patterns of tourist behavior, the lack cultural interpretations for attractions, and environmental pollution, most traditional urban destinations lost their shares in the tourist market to different extent. This paper also discusses the trends for development in urban destinations in China.