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Chris Jones

India Next Target of Las Vegas Trade Group

1 May 2006

LAS VEGAS AND INDIA -- Convention authority officials in October will lead a weeklong business recruiting trip to Mumbai and New Delhi, India, to pursue more trade show business.

Representatives of 10 to 15 Las Vegas trade shows, including the International Consumer Electronics Show; the ConExpo-ConAgg construction trade show; and CTIA, a wireless telecommunications event; will participate in the visit to the world's second most-populous nation.

"Everybody wants to go to India," said Chris Meyer, senior director of convention sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. "It's got the largest middle-class in the world, and that means there's plenty of consumerism, the same elements that our (U.S.) economy has."

Because English is commonly spoken in India, there's no language barrier to deter its citizens from traveling to U.S. cities such as Las Vegas.

Meyer said accessibility is also a plus. The Indian and U.S. governments last year adopted an "open skies" policy that eliminates government restrictions on flights between the two nations.

Commercial jets operate daily between New Delhi and Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Newark, N.J.

India needs to significantly improve its national infrastructure. But that problem appeals to many Las Vegas trade show exhibitors, who believe their products could improve India's quality of life, Meyer said.

Interest in India from the convention authority, which markets the city's leisure and business travel industries around the world, is not unique.

German media reports said this week's Hanover Trade Fair, billed as the world's largest industrial and technology fair, was jointly sponsored by India.

Nearly 350 Indian companies participated in the 200,000-attendee event to "showcase (India's) new industrial might," Deutsche Presse Agentur, a German news agency, reported Friday.

The authority's trip will be arranged in association with the U.S. Commercial Service, a Department of Commerce unit that assists small- and medium-size businesses sell their goods and services overseas.

Plans call for receptions with Indian media and business leaders, followed by one-on-one sales calls between Las Vegas trade show representatives and would-be Indian exhibitors and attendees.

The authority hopes Indian citizens who first visit Las Vegas on business will later return for leisure trips with their friends and family.

India did not rank among this city's Top 10 foreign markets in 2004, the most-recent annual international visitation data available.

India's population will approach 1.01 billion by mid-summer, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook.

Only China, home to more than 1.3 billion people, has more residents.

The Indian economy has posted an average growth rate of more than 7 percent in the 10 years since 1994, reducing poverty by about 10 percentage points, the CIA reported.

India is capitalizing on its well-educated, English-proficient population to become a major exporter of software services and software workers. Still, the World Bank and others worry about India's combined state and federal budget deficit, which was approximately 9 percent of last year's $3.7 trillion gross domestic product.

The upcoming India trip is not without precedent. In September 2004, the authority and several trade show partners traveled south of the equator to promote their Las Vegas events before potential customers in Sao Paulo, Brazil. A similar trip took local representatives to China's Beijing and Shanghai in June.

A second authorized-sponsored trip to Brazil will precede the India journey, this time with August stops in Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre, Meyer said. The authority is evaluating similar trade show missions to nations in Eastern Europe.