Hotel operator Holiday Hospitality and publishing house Emphasis are investing about $3 million in a joint campaign to promote Asia as a travel destination in the United States and Asian markets. Representatives of the companies said images of economic turmoil, smog, riots and demonstrations - a lot of which had been created and driven by media coverage in the United States - had created a negative perception of Asia among the American public. The idea of the two-year campaign was to try to change some of these views through awareness and understanding. To accomplish this, the companies have created a 52-page destination guide featuring 15 country-specific profiles stretching from Australia to Japan. About 50,000 guides will be distributed to travel agents and travel professionals in the US. A 10-minute video has also been produced from footage donated by national tourism authorities. The video is being distributed in the US through chapters of the Pacific Asia Travel Association and is being aired as in-flight entertainment on Thai Airways, Malaysian Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways and Philippine Airlines. Paul Kitamura of Holiday Hospitality, which operates the Holiday Inn and Crown Plaza hotel chains, said that in a survey of US travellers by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, the majority of those polled listed Asia as a dream destination because it was exotic. Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and China were rated as the top destinations. 'We wanted to create a positive impression of Asia in America and that's largely an education process,' said Mr Kitamura. 'This campaign is targeting the leisure traveller but we found that just the offer of a cheap deal won't drive people to get on a plane for 20 hours. There has to be more. 'The reason we are promoting Asia locally is to boost the region. The message to Asian travellers is to reinforce the positive images of their home destinations, and there is also a lot of international business travellers working within the region. We are hoping to intercept both of those groups.' Stan Stalnaker, marketing manager of Emphasis, said supplements from the guide also would be appearing in the in-flight magazines published by the company. 'This economic turmoil has not done much for airline confidence in the region and to us, we see it as a reflection of people's expectations. If we can do something to turn it around, even if it costs us something in the short run, it should have a really good benefit in the long term.' Mr Kitamura said that, overall, Holiday Inn's Asian business was down from 30 to 40 per cent in the first quarter but it still had plans to open another 12 hotels in the region within the next 18 months. 'This is a worthwhile campaign because we are going to get a return down the road,' he said. 'We are going to get a piece of a larger pie that we hope to create. There really is no immediate return but we are looking to achieve our share of incremental business through tactical promotions down the road.'