Fewer tourists visiting Reno to gamble - Sunday 12th of June 2005

Fewer tourists are visiting the Reno area primarily to gamble, a report shows, and more are coming for special events and conventions.

Only 8 percent of visitors came to gamble last year, down from 12 percent in 2003 and 23 percent in 1994, according to the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority's annual survey of visitors.

By contrast, 16 percent of tourists attended a special event in 2004, up from 12 percent the year before.

And 18 percent of visitors attended a convention or meeting, up from 15 percent in 2003 and 13 percent in 2002.

Tourism officials said the report shows progress in efforts to attract new visitors to compensate for losses stemming from the spread of Indian casinos across the country.

"The good news is we seem to be picking up people for conventions and other business to make up for that," Sparks Nugget spokeswoman Beth Cooney told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

While the number of visitors who came to gamble was down, 89 percent still reported at least some gambling.

More visitors - 56 percent - also reported shopping while in town.

"Where it has jumped up is in one area - shopping and gifts," said Sara Hart of InfoSearch International, which conducted the survey for the RSCVA. "That trend is true of many casino-based destinations."

The median age of visitors was 55, down from a 10-year high of 56 in 2003.

While California remains the major feeder market for the Reno area, the percentage of visitors from that state was 43 percent, down from 44 percent in 2003 and 59 percent in 2002.

Half of the visitors said the Reno area has improved since their last trip. But only 73 percent said they intend to return within two years, down from 76 percent in 2003 and 83 percent in 2002.

The study was based on 2,405 surveys of visitors in 2004. Travelers were encountered at casinos and interviewed by telephone once they returned home.

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