Art museum draws tourists from all over

The letters to Reno tourism officials speak volumes: One writer, for instance, says she hadn't been to Reno for years until she returned this autumn to visit the new Nevada Museum of Art and she plans to return more often.

Another couple say they came to the city for the first time specifically to see the new museum.

The power of the museum as a drawing card for a new kind of tourist in northern Nevada has been demonstrated in two new studies.

More than 38 percent of the visitors to museum come from somewhere other than Reno, Carson City or Lake Tahoe, according to a poll conducted by the museum.

Of the out-of-state visitors, the poll found 70 percent came from California.Washington, which accounted for a bit more than 8 percent, stood in second place.

Nine other states ranging from Florida to North Dakota to Hawaii each contributed at least 1 percent of the museum's out-of-state visitors.

More important for the region's tourism industry, those visitors stay around.

About two-thirds of the out-of-state visitors, the museum poll found, stay at a hotel or motel for an average of 2.5 days.

The other third, who stay with friends or family, are in town for an average of more than five days.

That out-of-town traffic at during the museum's opening in May got a big boost from a promotion sponsored by American Express, the museum and four big hotels the Eldorado, Harrah's, Peppermill and Silver Legacy.

That promotion offered discounted hotel rooms, tickets to the museum and its opening show of paintings by Frida Kahlo and shopping and dining offers.

American Express cardholders who used their card got an additional 15 percent off the package price.

The results? Eighty five percent of those who used the package said it was their primary reason to visit Reno, and nearly two-thirds said the opportunity to visit the new museum was their primary motivation.

Those museum visitors were an upscale audience.

More than 40 percent said they have household incomes of more than $76,000 a year.

The figures bring joy to Mary Ann McAuliffe, arts and cultural manager for the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority.

"It helps validate the point that cultural and historical tourism is a new economic tool for the hotels," McAuliffe said of the American Express promotion.

Equally important, she said, is the boost the museum gives to efforts to create a new image for Reno in the mind of visitors.

"It's such an incredible addition to our destination," she said.

"We've gotten lot of incredible press."

Articles about the new museum and its architecture have appeared in papers ranging from the Wall Street Journal to most of the major publications in California.

McAuliffe said, too, the museum poll of out-of-town visitors supports reason that cultural tourism is important tourists drawn for cultural and historical attractions stay longer, spend more and participate in a variety of activities ranging from golf to gaming during their visits.


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