ONE notable feature of this year's ITE is the increased participation from Middle Eastern countries which are stepping up their drive to attract tourists from Asia. One of the largest exhibitors is Egypt, which will be promoting attractions that range from beach holidays to the ancient city of Cairo and internationally-renowned monuments, such as the pyramids and the sphinx. The Nile will feature prominently in the display. Cruises that pass the magnificent temples at Luxor, Karnak, Abydos, Denderah and Aswan should prove a big drawcard. Passengers will be offered a similar vantage point as the pharaohs enjoyed from their royal barges. 'We will have four booths, which makes us one of the largest participations in the exposition,' said Ali Maher El-Dali, Egypt's Consul-General. 'Tourism is the second biggest income earner for Egypt after the Suez Canal, so it is important that we promote it. Hundreds of thousands of people work in this industry.' The number of Asian-based visitors to Egypt is growing steadily. Last year, they increased by 10,7 per cent. There was a massive increase of 93 per cent from China, albeit from a low base. Israel is also promoting its tourist attractions which include Jerusalem, currently celebrating 3,000 years of existence, and the Dead Sea, which is being promoted as a unique holiday experience. At 400 metres below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth and boasts an extraordinary combination of natural, geographical, historical and archaeological phenomena. Year-round sunshine, natural beauty and an all-pervading sense of history are only part of its appeal. The Dead Sea has long been believed to have the power to re-energise and rejuvenate and, due to low altitude, high temperatures, low rainfall, high atmospheric pressure and dry, pollen-free, oxygen-rich air, visitors are more or less guaranteed a feeling of well-being during their stay. Like Israel, Dubai offers an attractive mix of ancient exotic sights and modern comfort. Emirates provides a direct air link to Dubai from Hong Kong and, once there, options include desert safaris, visits to the traditional markets or souks, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving or golf. Many of the leading international hotel chains manage properties in Dubai, including Sheraton, Hyatt, Intercontinental, Ramada, Holiday Inn and Hilton. With trade and business links between Asia and the Middle East becoming progressively stronger, tourism is beginning to follow suit, a trend which the region's representation at ITE is likely to reinforce.