Foreigners flock to LV - Friday 12th of August 2005

Xenophobes, beware! Everyone else, go brush up on those German, Spanish or Japanese phrases you practiced in a classroom so many moons ago.

Such preparations are in order because like em or not, an increasing number of overseas visitors are making stops in both Las Vegas and Nevada, a new federal travel survey shows.

Last year, Las Vegas hosted more than 1.56 million overseas travelers, a 20.6 percent increase over 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Commerces Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. Overall, the city, which ranked seventh in national market share, hosted approximately 7.7 percent of the United States reported 20.3 million overseas visitors.

Buoyed by Las Vegas strong performance, Nevadas statewide overseas travel total also surged. In 2004, nearly 1.63 million such visitors came here, up 19 percent. The Silver State enjoyed an 8 percent market share and, as was the case in 2003, only New York, Florida, California and Hawaii hosted more overseas guests.

Travelers from Canada and Mexico were not included in the report.

Though dramatic, last years increases were more in line with national trends than in 2003, when Nevada was one of just three of the 34 states or U.S. territories surveyed to report growth in overseas visitation. In 2004, 12 of the 36 respondents reported growth rates of 20 percent or better, headed by Minnesota, which more than doubled its 2003 count with 183,000 overseas travelers.

Overall, overseas visits to the United States grew by 13 percent last year. More than a dozen states were not listed because they did not report sufficient visitor activity. The information was collected using federally supported in-flight surveys of international air travelers.

In 2004, Las Vegas overseas travel figures were boosted by expanded service from the United Kingdom via Virgin Atlantic Airways and bmi, which on Oct. 31 began its thrice-weekly service to and from Manchester, England. Philippine Airlines also added four weekly flights connecting Las Vegas and Manila (with between stops in Vancouver, British Columbia) in March 2004.

Kevin Bagger, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authoritys research director, said Monday "its absolutely noteworthy" that Las Vegas ranked among several cities that have served as key U.S. entry points for decades. That indicates local efforts to secure more direct international air service at McCarran International Airport are paying off, he said.

The authority is breaking down which foreign nations supplied Las Vegas with the most international travelers in 2004. Two years ago, the United Kingdom ranked No. 1 among overseas markets with 362,000 estimated Las Vegas visitors, followed by Japan (168,000) and Germany (96,000).

Luring more overseas travelers here is key to the authoritys stated goal of drawing 43 million visitors to Las Vegas by 2009. That year, it hopes nearly 6.5 million international travelers will visit the city annually, up from last years estimated 4.5 million.

FOREIGN FAVORITES

Last years most-popular U.S. cities for overseas travelers:

Rank City Visitors % Change vs.

2003

1. New York 5.16 million 29.6

2. Los Angeles 2.27 million 7.0

3. Miami 2.2 million 5.9

4. Orlando, Fla. 1.95 million 10.4

5. Honolulu 1.87 million 15.3

5. San Francisco 1.87 million 10.4

7. LAS VEGAS 1.56 million 20.6

8. Washington, D.C. 1.06 million 22.2

9. Chicago 935,00 20.6

10. Boston 833,000 10.0

Last years most-popular states/territories for overseas travelers:

Rank State Visitors % change vs.

2003

1. New York 5.43 million 29

2. Florida 4.43 million 5

3. California 4.2 million 6

4. Hawaii 2.21 million 14

5. NEVADA 1.63 million 19

6. Guam 1.04 million 22

7. Illinois 975,000 18

8. Massachusetts 935,000 13

9. Texas 874,000 5

10. New Jersey 833,000 22

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