China has become the highest spending Asian market in the UK as Chinese visitors doubled their expenditure here during the first half of 2013.
Spend and visits from China have grown faster in percentage terms than any other of VisitBritain's 22 priority markets, with spend up by 132% to £181m and visits up by 21% in the first half of 2013, compared to the first half of 2012.
The figures were announced as VisitBritain undertakes its largest overseas business mission to date in Chengdu, with the Goring hotel in London, Jurys Inn and the Millennium Hotels Group among the 43 participating companies.
More than 2,000 key business appointments will be conducted between influential Chinese buyers and UK suppliers during the three-day-visit.
China is currently one of the fastest-growing tourism markets for the UK, with 14% year-on-year growth over the past few years. A record 179,000 visitors came to Britain in 2012 (up 20%), spending a total £300m - a rise of 25%.
VisitBritain aims to attract 382,000 visits from China by 2016, worth £600m in annual visitor spend.
Keith Beecham, overseas director at VisitBritain, said that momentum is gathering pace amongst Chinese visitors to the UK
"China has now overtaken America as the biggest outbound tourism market in the world - and Britain is benefitting. It is vital that our efforts cater to this growth, so this year's China Mission is our biggest yet. With the Chinese visa process set to improve and a new direct British Airways route from Chengdu, there is no better time to promote Britain as a destination of choice in China."