The head of China’s biggest online travel service is predicting the number of passport-holding citizens will double to 240 million by 2020, a trend that could fuel an explosion of mainland tourists exploring the world.

Rising affluence is also likely to drive growth in Chinese travel, Jane Sun, chief executive officer of Ctrip.com International Ltd., said in an interview.

Ctrip is relying on a boom in Chinese tourism to fuel its global ambition of becoming one of the world’s most valuable travel companies.

Passport numbers are a key statistic in predicting overseas tourism and the proportion of Chinese with the travel document has historically been lower compared to neighbors like Japan.

That disparity is changing as the mainland’s economic boom fuels growth in household wealth.

“Right now about 120 million people have their passport,” Sun said in Davos, Switzerland, where she was attending the World Economic Forum. “By 2020 that number will be likely doubled so the market will grow tremendously in the next couple of years.”

Ctrip is the world’s largest web travel booking service behind Priceline Group Inc., which is a major investor in the Shanghai-based company.

By 2020, Ctrip’s long-stated goal is to have as much as 1.4 trillion yuan ($221 billion) worth of annual gross merchandise volume, which refers to the total value of products sold on its platform.

Sun has previously pledged to increase this to 2 trillion yuan by 2021.

“The old Chinese teaching is it’s better to travel 10,000 miles than to read 10,000 books,” she said. “So they’re going to travel all around the world.”

Meanwhile: Ctrip Chairman Believes His Company’s the Answer for U.S. Travelers Headed to Asia

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Photo Credit: Jane Sun, the CEO of Ctrip, China’s biggest online travel service, is predicting the number of passport-holding citizens will double to 240 million by 2020. Billy H.C. Kwok / Bloomberg