After a hiatus of a few years, the Safari Club International Annual Hunters’ Convention is returning to Reno beginning in 2019 as well as 2020 and 2021.
The announcement came at a press conference on July 21.
With 20,000 people annually attending the event from 103 countries, the Safari Club had concerns whether or not the Reno-Tahoe International Airport could adequately accommodate the throngs of people. So the SCI looked elsewhere.
“Our last convention here was in 2013. Northern Nevada’s air service had diminished and it became too difficult to bring 20,000 people from so many countries, so we made the decision to leave Reno for a few years,” said Phil DeLone, CEO of SCI.
However, DeLone commended the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority for diligently working to put those concerns to rest, allowing SCI to return to the Biggest Little City.
“Since 2013, the amount of air service is beginning to increase,” he said. “From the data we’ve collected we know that in 2019 and beyond we will have air service to accommodate our needs.”
The RTAA has worked to broaden the airport’s cache of daily flights and connections, increasing access to thousands of SCI members.
“The good news is in the last 13 months, we added 10 flights,” said Marily Mora, CEO of the RTAA. “We’re working with all the airlines to bring in additional flights for every year of this conference and working with charters on specific destinations.”
The RTIA for instance, has added new carriers in Volaris Airlines, and JetBlue since SCI left Reno in 2013.
Mora pointed out that Volaris has service to Guadalajara and JetBlue has service to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City with connectivity throughout the East Coast. Existing airline carriers at RTIA such as Southwest, Delta and Alaska airlines all have added flights or are working to add future flights.
Mora and Jennifer Cunningham, interim managing director of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, indicated losing the SCI conference was an eye-opening experience for area tourism officials. They recognized a collaborative effort was needed that included some high-profile hotel executives to bring SCI back and attract new large-scale conventions in the future.
“What we’re seeing here is if we work together as a community, we’ll bring large conferences like this back to Reno,” Mora said. “What we did is really work with the RSCVA to identify where people who attend these kinds of conferences come from and where our flights go to show them we have the capability to bring participants into town.”
She added that the RTAA and RSCVA are doing similar joint efforts to aide air service for Burning Man.
Cunningham noted the region’s economic growth was a contributing factor in the SCI’s return, but assurances of adequate air service was the key.
Las Vegas has been hosting the SCI convention since its departure from Reno and will do so the next two years.
“This is such a great convention that extends out to the community. It’s a lot of affluent people who like to wine and dine and shop,” Cunningham said. “I get the sense in talking with their members that they feel like Reno is their home.”
Reno had previously hosted 20 SCI annual conventions starting in January of 1989, including 10 of the 11 years from 2003 to 2013. The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority estimated an annual economic impact of roughly $21 million when the four-day SCI convention comes to the area.