NEW YORK -- Las Vegas emerged as the best-selling domestic tour destination in a survey conducted by the U.S. Tour Operators Association of its 57 members.

The city is a newcomer to the hottest-selling domestic field. It unseated Orlando, Fla., which had been the top-ranked city for several years. Orlando placed second this year.

The survey is conducted each year; USTOA's member firms represent 122 brands and account for $5 billion in annual sales.

The poll, conducted before the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia began, listed Italy as the hottest-selling international destination for the fifth consecutive year.

Second place among international destinations was China, followed by Australia and Spain. France, which usually ranks in the top four, was surpassed by Spain this year.

South and Central America are the international areas where tour operators said they expect the biggest growth, followed by the South Pacific. Italy and Mexico were cited as the two single countries expected to experience the greatest growth.

Among domestic destinations, operators said Las Vegas and Florida would experience the biggest growth.

The survey found that operators believe a strong U.S. dollar will help Canada. Members estimated that bookings would rise between 5% and 20% this year. About 60% of respondents said their 1999 prices to Canada were down by as much as 7%.

Operators said Asia prices are lower this year, with 80% reporting prices an average of 11% lower than in 1998.

More than 90% of operators said domestic package and tour prices remained either unchanged or slightly higher this year. Seventy percent said international prices for tours and packages were the same or slightly higher. Average increases for domestic and international packages were 5% to 6% over 1998.

Among the new destinations for USTOA operators, Morocco was among the most popular, with three operators adding the country to their offerings.

Asked about trends, members reported that the move to shorter vacations and to more packages and tours with individual components continued to gain momentum.

Two-thirds of operators now offer long-weekend packages.

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