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Gambling/General : Ways of attracting tourists to Las Vegas

By Andrea Klein

Level: Apr 10th 2007
Don Newman knows China releases more visas for business than tourism and the gold mines of Elko, a small mining town about 450 miles north of Las Vegas, would make a great excuse for Chinese businessmen who would also enjoy a side trip to casinos.

Newman, executive director of the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority, mentioned that the main focus of their trip is going to be Las Vegas, but Elko is going to provide the means to get the business visa. It was just one of many ideas presented during a two day conference aimed at getting more tourists to go beyond Las Vegas and Reno and visit rural Nevada.

The Rural Roundup, sponsored by the Nevada Commission on Tourism, is an annual event that attracts about 250 people from a less-known sector of the state's tourism industry. It gather people who are more likely to promote wagon rides, American Indian art and mountain biking than to offer five-star dining or risqué stage shows. Tim Maland, director of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, underlines that there are people coming from overseas who want to visit California and for this reason they must have alternatives in Nevada besides Las Vegas.

The conference who took place at Primm Valley Resort included discussions on everything from maximizing the potential of the Internet to networking with American Indian tribes as means to attract visitors to one of America's largest, and least crowded, states. It also covered ways communities can benefit from state and national parks, scenic highway designations and adventure tourism.

With new gambling sites explosion in almost every state and many foreign countries, small Nevada towns need more than a few rustic casinos to maintain a stable flow of tourists. West Wendover, located on Interstate 80 near Utah and the Bonneville Salt Flats, is promoting itself as a destination for many outdoor activities, from off-road racing to bird watching and hiking.

The community recently acquired a leasing car business that helps passengers on charters to West Wendover's five casinos enjoy more of an area that has mountains, water and 300 days of sunshine annually. They bet on the fact people love the gaming but they want to see the surroundings. According to informal polling in the town's visitor center last year here comes 900 Germans, about 500 United Kingdom residents and about 400 people from Australia and New Zealand.

The project of attracting more tourists to Nevada is a big challenge.The region's mountain landscapes are eclipsed by California's scenery, and Colorado and Utah are better known for river rafting, downhill skiing and mountain biking, even though Nevada offers a plenty of those activities.

Speaker at the conference focused on how rural Nevada communities could benefit of the substantial marketing behind Las Vegas to increase the profile for the rest of the Silver State. The tourism commission, for example, is trying to increase its perception at conventions, sporting events and in the media in Las Vegas. The idea is not to start a competition between Wendover and Las Vegas, metioned Tim Maland, but a competition of Nevada with California is well received.

The Internet is another source of equalization between rural Nevada settlements and better-known destinations, according to speakers at the conference. Andrew Wetzler, president of the Internet Company MoreVisibility, suggested people at the conference to make a blog which will dissolve the distances, to make the area more visible.

Another major factor, beside distance and isolation, which can also be a barrier to rural tourism, is culture. Las Vegas and Clark County inhabitants make up a large segment of visitation to rural Nevada. But in places such as rural White Pine County, the greedy thirst for water to fuel housing tracts and golf courses in Clark County is a source of dislike.

And the Internet, which allows rural communities to publicize their attributes around the world, can also come back to bite rural tourism boosters. That's because one Web skilled guest who experiences dislike, impoliteness or slow service can add their complaints in the same global forum.

To reduce the chances of a negative incident ruining the reputation of an entire community the Nevada Commission on Tourism conducts four to six seminars annually called Nevada Tourism University. Chris Chrystal, a spokeswoman for the commission, said the university offers front-line workers such as servers and hotel desk clerks tips of the better-quality for good customer service.
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