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Las Vegas is keen to lure Chinese visitors

    BEIJING, May 26 -- China has become a top priority for the tourism and conference industries of Las Vegas, with as many as half a million Chinese expected to visit, a city official said.

    "China is our number one priority in emerging markets," said Chris Meyer, a senior director at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

    Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Japan are traditional developed markets, while China, Germany, France, Italy, South Korea and South America are new targets.

    Last year, 29 million Chinese travelled overseas, rising 43 per cent over 2003. Their average spending was US$987, the highest in the world.

    Meyer believes that by 2009, Chinese people will account for 1 per cent of the 43 million visitors to the city.

    Several United States airlines have been in discussions with the Chinese authorities about launching direct flights.

    Meyer said his city has contacted the US embassy in Beijing about visa allocation, and a top official from the state of Nevada will visit China next month for further talks about how to make visits easier for Chinese travellers.

    Las Vegas is not only world famous for gambling, but also for hosting numerous international exhibitions.

    Dan Cole, vice-president for sales and business development at the US Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), said 600 Chinese visitors and about 100 exhibitors made the trip to the Consumer Electronics Show, the largest trade fair in North America, in January, but the numbers will grow very quickly in the coming years.

    For businesses from countries like China, whose main purpose is to find interested buyers, CEA has launched a service to provide market information and assistance in developing the US and international markets.

    At the same time, the US industrial organization has expanded its presence in China and will act as a co-manager of SinoCES in Qingdao, a coastal city in East China.

    As more and more Chinese companies develop their businesses in other parts of the world, participation in international exhibitions is an important way to connect with customers to win contracts.

    In March, more than 240 Chinese exhibitors attended CeBIT in Germany, the world's largest trade show.

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