AUSTRALIA is looking to Asia to boost tourism during the lead-up to the 2000 Olympics, and Hong Kong is the main target, particularly in New South Wales. The chief executive of Tourism New South Wales, Tony Thirlwell, who has been in Hong Kong to get his message across, has a A$5 million (about HK$30 million) budget, and the state's latest television advertising campaign is full of Asian faces. The 44-year-old former marketing director of Qantas talked about NSW's plans to increase the number of visitors from Asia, particularly to Sydney. There has been a 13 per cent increase in arrivals in Sydney from Hong Kong over the past year, and Mr Thirlwell said more budget-conscious travellers are now being targeted. Package deals are being arranged by Tourism NSW in partnership with Ansett, most involving seven-day visits to Sydney. The television campaign will centre on Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia in the new year, and will later be extended to Taiwan, Thailand and possibly South Korea. Mr Thirlwell said it was the first time an Australian state had mounted a concerted campaign to attract foreign visitors, and also to focus on a particular city. The main selling point was Sydney's diverse cultures. 'The arts and cultural life in Sydney are so rich that visitors may be tempted to extend their stay,' said Mr Thirlwell. Sydney had 75 theatres, and offered cuisine from all over the world. 'Every day there is a new show, dance, drama or opera in Sydney,' he said, and everything was within easy reach. A newly-opened section inside the New South Wales Gallery highlighted the aboriginal culture of Central Australia; Sydney harbour was a classic of natural beauty; and shopping facilities ranked with the world's best. The newly completed 800-hectare Olympic Park, at a former industrial site, was being hailed as the country's premier urban redevelopment project. Mr Thirlwell, chairman of the State Tourism on Olympic Forum and member of the Olympic's Project Management Committee, said the games would be a huge boost for Australia. 'A lot of construction will take place from 1996. A huge swimming pool designed for the Olympics is already open now.' Mr Thirlwell, who is also chairman of the Marketing Council for the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), said tourism was Australia's number one industry, and was growing quickly. Japanese visitors alone made up a quarter of the foreign visitors to Sydney each year, and this year the numbers visiting from other Asian nations had increased by 37 per cent. Asian visitors to Australia are expected to rise to 2.1 million by the year 2000, a threefold increase from the present. New South Wales has remained the most popular destination for foreign visitors for more than a decade. 'Tourism is an industry with enormous potential in our country. It's also nice to promote my home town. It's satisfying work,' said Mr Thirlwell. Asia was becoming increasingly affluent, and Mr Thirlwell added: 'We are so close to one another; as neighbours, we should visit each other more. 'You learn from people's different lifestyles, and can better understand people. I've learned a lot from my Asian friends.' He added: 'Our foods reflect our history as an immigrant country. You can see in them a combination of different ethnic flavours. I think we are lucky that the multi-culturalism policy is working very well in our country.' For Mr Thirlwell, more tempting work lies ahead. 'We will apply for extra funding for promotions in North America if the campaign in Asia proves successful,' he said.