US-China Tourism Year continues with annual Tourism Leadership Summit


WASHINGTON, DC – More than 200 US and Chinese tourism-industry leaders and government officials convened for the 10th annual US – China Leadership Summit, September 8-10, in the Chinese city of Yinchuan, capital of China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

Brand USA, the destination-marketing organization for the United States, 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).

This yearly event provides a forum for US and Chinese tourism officials to discuss issues impacting tourism, strategize 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,” said Christopher L. Thompson, Brand USA’s President and CEO. “It’s an excellent opportunity for Brand USA and our partners to have face-to-face dialogue that addresses improved strategies for tourism marketing and associated topics in the United States and China.”

This year’s Summit is a marquee event of the U.S. – China Tourism Year, which President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly designated last fall in recognition of the ever-closer cooperation and steady development of U.S. – China tourism. The Tourism Year focuses on mutually beneficial enhancement of travel and tourism experiences, cultural understanding, and appreciation of natural resources within the travel industries of both countries and among U.S. and Chinese travelers.

“2016 has been a crucial year for China-U.S. tourism. Since the launch of the U.S. – China Tourism Year in Beijing in February, the tourism industries in both countries have implemented various programs including 1,000 U.S. visitors to the Great Wall, the exchange of visits of 100 travel agents and tour operators, and the opening of the Shanghai Disney Resort,” said China National Tourism Administration, Chairman Li Jinzao. “Furthermore, there will be 5,000 Chinese visitors going to the United States during the closing ceremony of the Tourism Year in November, which will not only make the perfect ending of the U.S. – China Tourism Year, but also establish a solid foundation for future cooperation between our two countries.”

Tourism is the top services export for the United States, and in 2015 the United States experienced record visitation of 77.5 million visitors. According to preliminary statistics tracked by the NTTO, the United States welcomed nearly 2.6 million visitors from China in 2015 – becoming the fifth-largest international market in terms of visitation into the United States. This was an 18 percent increase over 2014, a year that saw a 21 percent annual growth.

Current NTTO projections suggest by 2018, the United Kingdom 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 $30 billion that Chinese visitors spent surpassed the outlay by visitors from both Canada and Mexico. On average, the Chinese spend $7,164 a piece during each U.S. trip – about 30 percent greater than other international visitors.

“China continues to be a critical market for the United States in reaching our National Travel and Tourism Strategy’s goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors annually to our country by 2021,” said Kelly Craighead, Executive Director of the National Travel and Tourism Office, U.S. Department of Commerce. “As the Tourism Year demonstrates, there is no better way to build friendship and understanding between our peoples than to promote travel between our nations.”

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

Brand USA has been the organizing force for the U.S. travel and tourism industry, pushing resources and information to the U.S. travel and tourism industry to engage and leverage the platform of the Tourism Year. For example, an online toolkit launched earlier this year contains resources such as in-depth consumer and market intelligence, the Tourism Year logo, a master calendar, videos from President Obama and Secretary Pritzker, Brand USA cooperative marketing opportunities and more. Brand USA also recently launched a “China readiness” training program that is available to all partners and that Brand USA is lending to regional tourism conferences around the United States over the next year.

In February, Brand USA worked with CNTA and the U.S. Department of Commerce to launch the Tourism Year by hosting a gala in Beijing that included a high-level government and industry program and award-winning cooking and entertainment from the United States. The event was held during Brand USA’s first-ever sales mission to China, a three-city, trip that allowed 40 partner organizations to meet and market their individual destinations to prominent Chinese travel agents and tour operators.

Brand USA is highly active in China with consumer marketing, robust travel trade outreach, and cooperative marketing platforms. The consumer marketing is entirely tailored to the China market and features heavy digital and social presence across established and emerging Chinese channels. To reach the travel trade and travel media and collaborate with the U.S. embassy and consulates, Brand USA has established representation offices in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Shanghai. Many of the cooperative marketing programs that Brand USA offers to its partners in China make use of this impressive media and trade footprint.

Among the upcoming marketing initiatives and programs available for partners to leverage in the China market, is the first MegaFam from that country. Brand USA will bring approximately 50 Chinese travel agents on simultaneous trips across the United States. Brand USA’s MegaFam program, a first for the U.S. travel industry, is one of the most effective ways to promote travel across the USA. It is a highly successful program that has been run repeatedly from the Australia, Germany, and the UK.

Brand USA’s mission is to increase incremental international visitation, spend and market share to fuel the nation’s economy and enhance the image of the USA worldwide. According to Brand USA’s proprietary research, their efforts are already achieving results. Brand USA’s consumer ads in China have moved the needle nearly 20 percent in increasing traveler’s desire to visit the USA in the next 12 months and 10 percent in their overall appeal of the USA.

A new study by Oxford Economics shows that for the third straight year Brand USA is accomplishing their mission in collaboration with over 600 global partners. The study reveals that over the past three years Brand USA’s marketing initiatives have helped welcome more than three million incremental visitors to the USA, benefiting the U.S. economy with more than $21 billion in total economic impact, and supporting, on average, nearly 50,000 incremental jobs a year.

Current programs will be expanded and new opportunities developed to continue to promote enhanced travel facilitation from China to the United States throughout the U.S. – China Tourism Year and beyond.