The tourism industry, Nevada’s biggest economic sector (overall travel spending in the state was $59.4 billion in 2013) is taking steps to show more growth this year, which is good news for the Silver State. According to the Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT), 52.8 million people visited in the first two quarters of 2014, up 1.5 percent over the previous year.
Claudia Vecchio, director of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, has some specific plans for improving those figures and has been working closely with various teams to make it happen.
Engaging travelers and showing why Nevada is such a great destination is reflected in the interactive summer marketing campaign created in cooperation with a new advertising agency announced in February, Fahlgren Mortine based in Columbus, Ohio.
The Travel Nevada Web site has a new landing page summer.travelnevada.com that continues the “Don’t fence me in” theme, with “Adventures without limits, culture without compare and a wide-open sense of freedom all make Nevada the perfect respite for those who refuse to be fenced in.” It features four focus areas: A world of tastes, a world of adventure, a world of wanderlust and a world of originals, each taking the visitor on an excursion in the state, some with stories written by fellow “adventurers.” Television ads, follow the theme with music by the Las Vegas rock band, “The Killers” and will run in markets such as San Francisco, which reflect visitor demographics.
As an adjunct marketing effort, to spur in-state travel TravelNevada and “Nevada” magazine (which NCOT publishes) are running a “Discover Your Nevada” campaign intended to educate Nevadans about the vast variety of adventures available throughout the state.
The magazine created the Silver State Scavenger Hunt to entice travelers to visit all corners of the state. Participants choose 10 locations in either northern or southern Nevada from a list found in the current issue of the magazine (a free issue will be sent to anyone who inquires and an option for entering without traveling is available), take a photo of themselves with the magazine in each location, and send the photos to the magazine. Completed entries will be entered into a drawing for a Land Rover Wheels Event — a one-day, hands-on driving adventure with trained Land Rover technicians and catered meals.
“Discover Your Nevada and the Silver State Scavenger Hunt are all about tapping into the adventurous spirit of Nevadans and inspiring them to explore this extraordinary state,” Vecchio said. “There is no reason a Nevada resident should ever say they have nothing to do this weekend. These programs can help inspire and guide every Nevadan in their quest for adventure.”
A continued emphasis on attracting international travelers is another NCOT priority.
“The international market is crucial to Nevada’s travel industry and to Nevada’s economic health,” Vecchio said. They’ve seen a lot of gains especially with visitors from China and India and expect the trend to continue. Foreign travelers are increasingly interested in visiting Reno, Tahoe and Las Vegas, but also want to experience wide open spaces, Western and Native American culture.
Nevada has representation in nine key countries in which travel to the United States is currently popular or is emerging — markets such as China, South Korea, Brazil and Australia. These travelers often come as part of large groups and tend to stay longer and spend more than domestic visitors, but they also often have unique cultural needs that have to be addressed both in marketing, services and the overall visitor experience.
Working throughout the state to improve infrastructure is high on the To Do list for Vecchio. JetBlue launching their non-stop New York to Reno route represents an important tourism milestone for northern Nevada (see related story pg 1 ).
As much as she is positive about the impact of expanding air service, Vecchio is also eager to support the Department of Transportation in upgrading and adding highway rest stops. She has a particular passion for helping travelers know about all the visit-worthy off-the-beaten-path, often missed spots throughout Nevada that are a big part of the state’s history and culture. Better signage and visitor services are essential to expanding tourism, she insists.
Tour operators like Mark Hoffman of Sacramento agree. During the recent NCOT Rural Roundup, he said “if rural Nevada would add 25 new rest areas, I could increase travel here by 50 percent.”