China overtook France for the first time as Canada’s second-biggest source of overseas tourists after the U.K., the nation’s statistics agency said.

Chinese visits rose by 4.6 percent to a record 43,102 in August, Statistics Canada said today from Ottawa. The number of tourists from France, which helped settle the land that would become Canada about 400 years ago, was little changed at 42,761. The total number of overseas tourists rose 2.9 percent to about 457,000, the highest in records back to 1972.

Tourism from China increased after the Beijing government gave Canada an “Approved Destination Status” in December 2009. Chinese tourists often focus on traditional locales including Banff, Alberta, and cities such as Vancouver and Toronto where there are more Chinese-language services, according to Rob Taylor, vice-president of public and industry affairs at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

“It’s not about France’s decline, it’s about China’s growth,” Taylor said in a telephone interview.

Canada’s southern neighbor remains by far the largest source of tourists, with 1.68 million U.S. visitors in August. The U.K., another nation that helped found Canada, was the largest source of overseas visits at about 63,000 in August.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Quinn in Ottawa at gquinn1@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Badertscher at pbadertscher@bloomberg.net.

Photo Credit: Banff is one of the top destinations for Chinese tourists to Canada. Anath BS / Flickr