Last week, U.S. government officials and top travel industry leaders joined officials from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism and travel industry leaders for the 14th U.S.-China Tourism Leadership Summit in Xi’an, Shaanxi, China. The last Summit, which had been an annual event in alternating host nations, was held in Seattle in 2019.

This year’s Summit was co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Brand USA., the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China, and the People’s Government of Shaanxi Province.  During the event, participants highlighted the importance of working together to strengthen and expand travel and tourism and people-to-people exchanges, which will support increased jobs and economic growth.

Chinese & Amercian students perform at the opening ceremony. Click for video clip. Credit: CCTV

“It’s good to see this Summit between the world’s two largest economies being held again this year as it will advance movement in the Chinese market’s resurgence,” said Lisa Simon, IITA Executive Director who was representing the U.S. inbound travel industry at the Summit.

“The China market is crucial to a full recovery and so far it’s only been about a third of what the visitation was in 2019. Our industry needs to work on getting China ready again as this huge market rebounds.”

The first day, organized by Brand USA, updated the U.S. delegation on the status of China inbound travel and projections for its growth.


The second day brought the U.S. and China delegations together for aspirational comments by government officials from each country and panel discussions on facilitating travel between the two countries. The big takeaway was the commitment from China leaders to grow outbound tourism to America by 125% of peak 2019 numbers by 2026.

MOU Signing Cermony – China-U.S. Tourism City Partners

Several U.S. and China cities signed Memorandums of Understanding for cross-tourism cooperation.

This commitment comes from the highest levels of the Chinese government, which was well represented at the Summit, and will be achieved by the implementation of progressive visa, entry, and promotional policies and efforts on a bi-lateral basis.

Many observers believe that the Summit was more than a gathering of tourism leaders, but also a “thaw” in China-US diplomatic relationships.

If China regains its top spot in economic impact from inbound tourism, it is time to restart training and implement strategies for IITA operators and their business partners to host over three million Chinese visitors.

China will definitely join India in becoming rapidly growing inbound markets. Now is the time for more focus on these Asian visitors to ensure that IITA members benefit fully from this market.