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SD tourism officials look to lure Chinese visitors

PIERRE (AP) -- The South Dakota Department of Tourism is hoping to draw Chinese visitors to the Mount Rushmore state.

South Dakota tourism officials recently hosted their first Chinese familiarization tour of the state for Chinese tour operators. The 12 participants visited Rapid City, Badlands National Park, Sturgis, Deadwood, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park.

"The United States and South Dakota, in particular, continue to see increased numbers of international visitors, many of whom are already seeing some of our marketing," Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen said in a news release. "With the continuous growth in international travel, this tour gave us the opportunity to reach out to China as a new market, and welcome those visitors to our state."

According to the World Tourism Organization, Chinese visitors are now the top source of tourism spending in the world. They spent $102 billion on international tourism in 2012, a 40 percent increase from 2011.