More than 200 US and Chinese tourism-industry leaders and government officials have convened for the 10th annual US – China Leadership Summit in Yinchuan, capital of China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

Brand USA, the destination-marketing organisation for the US, arranged the summit with the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) and in partnership with the National Travel and Tourism Office at the US Department of Commerce (NTTO).

The annual event provides a forum for US and Chinese tourism officials to discuss issues impacting tourism, strategise on best practices for marketing long-haul destinations, and receive industry updates regarding marketing, trade, and government practices.

“The summit affords an ideal environment for forging productive, enduring relationships,” says Christopher Thompson, Brand USA’s president and CEO. “It’s an excellent opportunity to have face-to-face dialogue that addresses improved strategies for tourism marketing and associated topics.”

“2016 has been a crucial year for China-US tourism. Since the launch of the US – China Tourism Year in Beijing in February, the tourism industries in both countries have implemented various programmes,” says CNTA chairman Li Jinzao. “Furthermore, there will be 5,000 Chinese visitors going to the US during the closing ceremony of the Tourism Year in November, which will not only make the perfect ending of the US – China Tourism Year, but also establish a solid foundation for future cooperation between our two countries.”

According to preliminary statistics tracked by the NTTO, the US welcomed nearly 2.6 million visitors from China in 2015 – becoming the fifth-largest international market in terms of visitation. This was an 18 per cent increase over 2014, a year that saw a 21 per cent annual growth.

Current NTTO projections suggest by 2018, the UK and China will likely be the top-two overseas source markets. It is expected that double-digit increases in the number of Chinese arrivals each year will continue through 2020.

NTTO additionally reported that China was the single-largest source of international tourism spending in 2015. The over US$30 billion that Chinese visitors spent surpassed the outlay by visitors from both Canada and Mexico. On average, the Chinese spend US$7,164 a piece during each US trip – about 30 per cent greater than other international visitors.

“China continues to be a critical market for the US in reaching our National Travel and Tourism Strategy’s goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors annually to our country by 2021,” says Kelly Craighead, executive director of the National Travel and Tourism Office, USs Department of Commerce.

China is the number one international market in terms of US travel and tourism exports – adding nearly us$74 million a day into the US economy. This trend positions China as one of the highest-growth potential markets for the US.