Tourism Boss: Allure of Vegas Not Just Gambling - Wednesday 19th of April 2006

by Alison Vekshin

Las Vegas Gaming Wire

WASHINGTON, DC A Las Vegas tourism official on Wednesday showcased Southern Nevada's approach to marketing itself as an oasis for "adult freedom" in a speech before international tourism leaders and executives.

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said a blend of entertainment, dining, nightlife, golf and spas has helped diversify the Las Vegas brand beyond a "one-dimensional destination" for gambling.

"We couldn't just be a gaming destination. We need to be all things to all people," Ralenkotter said at The Global Travel & Tourism Summit.

Las Vegas was cited as a model during the conference being held at the Washington Convention Center over three days. The event drew about 700 tourism executives, government leaders, and airline and hotel chairmen from around the world.

"Las Vegas gets it," said Jonathan Tisch, chairman and chief executive of Loews Hotels and chairman of NYC & Company, the New York visitors bureau. "Las Vegas understands that this is a very competitive environment both internally and internationally. And Las Vegas supports the product, supports the brand with a very large budget."

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, whose $278 million operating budget is funded by room taxes, spends $120 million annually on destination advertising, marketing and promotion, Ralenkotter said. Tourism generated $36.7 billion in Las Vegas last year.

Based on interviews with visitors who associate the city with "excitement, sexiness and mischief," Ralenkotter said Las Vegas positioned itself as an adult destination.

"When you boil us all down it's all about adult freedom," he said. "That's how we came up with 'What happens here, stays here,' " a slogan that has gained worldwide exposure.

Ralenkotter said Las Vegas cannot relax.

To grow visitor foot traffic from 39 million in 2005 to 43 million in 2009, the city needs to maintain its current visitor base, increase the frequency of visits and find new markets, Ralenkotter said.

Other goals include boosting the city's hotel room inventory from 133,000 to 171,000 by 2010, Ralenkotter said.

Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the Travel Industry Association of America, said Las Vegas could help itself further by expanding McCarran International Airport and unclogging traffic along the Strip.

Ralenkotter said the visitors authority has launched a direct-marketing campaign through 1,000 face-to-face sales calls in the next year targeted at tour operators, corporate meeting executives and trade show producers.

It is also looking at ways to attract gay, lesbian, Hispanic and black visitors, and increase the number of international nonstop flights to Las Vegas.

The visitors authority has travel offices in eight international cities, with a new office opening soon in Toronto, Canada.

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