updated 1/25/2007 11:19:57 AM ET 2007-01-25T16:19:57

Major hotel brands, expecting another year of rising profits in the United States, have set their sights on Asia as the next big market for the lodging industry.

InterContinental Hotels Group Plc, the world's largest hotelier which also operates Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels, "is investing in our brands and diversifying geographically. We're strong in east Asia," Andrew Cosslett, chief executive of the company, said Tuesday at an industry conference held in Los Angeles.

He said InterContinental already is the top hotel company in China as well as Japan, where last year it acquired a majority stake in All Nippon Airways Co.'s hotel management unit.

Others are angling for market share.

"China is an enormous opportunity for us," said Steven Rudnitsky, president and CEO of Wyndham Worldwide Corp.'s hotel group, which also operates brands like Days Inn and Ramada.

He said China's first Wyndham hotel is slated to open later this year and the company's Super 8 economy chain has proven particularly popular.

"Eight is a very lucky number for China. Our partner has opened 50 properties so far," Rudnitsky said.

Hilton Hotels Corp., which earlier this year acquired its British namesake and international rights to the Hilton name, also has big plans for Asia, including India and China.

Investing in India, with its "long history of English law," is more straightforward than China, which requires more caution, said Hilton President and Chief Operating Officer Matthew Hart.

Cosslett said China's government has "a long-term mission" to manage social development so they are not thrown out of power like the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe.

The plans include infrastructure projects and airline routes linking rural areas with China's developed eastern coast, he said.

"They want to be, and will be, the dominant economic force on this planet for the next 50 years," the InterContinental CEO said.

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