MANY more Chinese tourists could be travelling to Dorset if a new tourism campaign pays off.

Dorset County Council has joined the battle with tourist destinations worldwide to attract China - the big untapped market for tourism - to our shores.

The authority has teamed up with the VisitBritain organisation to use the London 2012 Olympic Games - with sailing events in the borough - as a catalyst to put the South West and particularly Dorset on the Chinese citizen's map.

Economic policy manager for the council David Walsh said: "China has a huge population. People are gradually getting disposable income, more passports and it's a potentially huge market.

"VisitBritain is taking the lead at looking at it, seeing what we have to offer Chinese tourists.

"The heritage we offer in this country will be of interest - places such as London and Bath - but there's also lots of scope for what we offer in Dorset."

He added: "The legacy for us is to present Dorset as a world-class destination.

"We've got probably the world's best sailing venue, and something to offer everyone from active holidays to chilled-out walks along the coast, good food and villages."

Plans are under way to have a strong South West presence via VisitBritain at the Beijing 2008 Olympics this August, to let people know the next Games are not all in London, but in Weymouth and Portland as well.

Mr Walsh said: "Once the Beijing Games finish the spotlight will turn to this country, with media visits and training camps. It's an opportunity to put Dorset on the world stage and to show we've got so much to offer.

"We're gradually making sure what we have here in Dorset is top quality.

"If we say it's a world-class destination we have to make sure it is - with hotels, food providers, transport, so people come back time and time again. That's the challenge ahead. We've already started planning obviously, we have a visitor management group hosting visitors down for the Olympics, making sure we promote the wider area.

"We're in discussion with VisitBritain and working with the London Organisation Committee of the Olympic Games to provide hotels and accommodation for athletes, IT, accredited media and people who just come for a visit.

"China is the main untapped market and VisitBritain is looking at exactly what we can offer them, every destination in the world will be trying to do the same thing."

Before the forthcoming Games, there is a China In London festival which starts in February and will end with the arrival of the Beijing Olympic Torch in London on April 6.