Reducing carbon emissions and transitioning to a low-carbon economy are important propositions for human sustainability. Since it is closely related with high carbon emissions, international travel makes a substantial contribution to the global carbon emissions. To comprehensively explore the influence of international travel on carbon emissions and develop a sustainable development plan, this paper studies the temporal and spatial distribution and evolution of the carbon footprint of inbound tourism in China's 30 provinces between 2007 and 2017. In this study, comprehensive calculations and spatial models are adopted to reveal the temporal and spatial characteristics. The results show that the carbon footprint of inbound tourism in China has been increasing continuously from 2007 to 2017. While the carbon footprint increased by 1.94-fold, from 5.623 million tons to 10.8809 million tons, it presented obvious fluctuations by initially increasing rapidly and then dropping slightly. From the perspective of the contributions of various tourism components on the carbon footprint, transportation and post and telecommunications account for the largest proportions. In the past ten years, the variations in the carbon footprint of inbound tourism in most provinces and cities in China were not very extreme, but maintained a relatively stable state. In the spatial dimension, the carbon footprint of China's inbound tourism tends to decrease from the southeast to the northwest. The highest coefficient of variation is in Ningxia and the lowest is in Liaoning. Based on these results, recommendations are put forward for sustainable development plans in some major cities and provinces for the future.
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