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Nevada tourism industry joins forces to entice visitors

Judith Harlan

The Chinese media group that toured Nevada last week was the result of several months of planning, hundreds of staff hours of work, and numerous partnerships amongst tourism officials, hotels and destination venues.

The group brought in by the Nevada Commission on Tourism represents an enticingly enormous new slice of the tourism pie for Nevada – over 90 percent of the Chinese tourists who visit the United States, visit Las Vegas, and the number of Chinese tourists who have money and the desire to travel is increasing.

What’s more, the middle class is huge,with estimates of its size ranging from 100 million to 300 million people who would be able to travel internationally, says Chris Chrystal, media relations manager for the Nevada Commission on Tourism.

The recent Chinese media group included the editor of a Chinese bride magazine, as well as a primetime television crew, and lent promise to the hope of getting the word out to this large segment.

That tour is just one of the many fronts that the tourism industry is tackling.Nevada currently has tourism offices in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Korea, and it’s the only state licensed for an office in China.

NCOT’s familiarization tours, typically targeting media groups or tour packagers, are successful largely because commercial venues throughout Nevada enthusiastically collaborate with the statewide NCOT offices.

In fact, the participation within the hotel and tourism industry is terrific, according to Chris Chrystal,who led the recent Chinese group in their journey through Nevada.

For the Chinese media, the Nevada Commission on Tourism partnered with hotels and others in both Las Vegas and northern Nevada.

In Las Vegas, the Paris Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay, Ceasars Palace, the Venetian, and the MGM Mirage all hosted the Chinese group, serving up lavish buffets and premium hotel rooms.

Then, Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters chipped in with a tour over the canyon.

All of the Vegas tours were spectacular – hard to compete with.

But northern Nevada is a big player, too, says Chrystal.And that’s the message that the statewide tourism commission is broadcasting: There’s more to Nevada than Vegas.

She’s fighting an uphill, educational battle – most foreign travellers come to Nevada knowing only Las Vegas.

So, after soaking up the sights and lights of Vegas, NCOT took its Chinese media group north.

The group visited Lake Tahoe, took in a gunslinger show in Virginia City, and dropped in on a wedding chapel.

Jeanne Corey, director of sales of the Reno Hilton, joined the Chinese media group for an extravagant buffet dinner on their arrival.And before they left, Liza Cartlidge, general manager of Harrah’s, joined them for breakfast.

“Our message to them (the Chinese media group) is that northern Nevada is one of the most beautiful parts of the country,” said Cartlidge.

Harrah’s, she added,markets to the Asian tourist by playing host in collaboration with NCOT.”We do a lot of partnering in northern Nevada and California,” she said.

“We’re very proactive,” says Chrystal of her work for NCOT.And the collaborations are what make it all possible.