ASTA members rank Las Vegas No. 1 in the U.S.

LAS VEGAS -- Travel agents ranked Las Vegas the top domestic travel destination this winter, according to ASTA/Fodor's Winter 2001 Hot Spots Survey.

Slightly more than 22% of ASTA member agents surveyed reported that Las Vegas is the No. 1 domestic travel destination this winter, trumping last winter's favorite, Orlando, which dropped to second place with 20.4% of the votes.

These two destinations also appear to be gaining distance on the competition; last year, Orlando garnered 16.5% of total responses, Las Vegas 13.1%.

The other big gainers were Hawaii, which moved from sixth place to third; Los Angeles, and Miami.

The latter two, both known for fun, sun and glamour, bumped the more-reserved San Diego and San Francisco out of the survey's top 10 this year.

Hot Spots chart.Bill Maloney, ASTA executive vice president and chief operating officer, said he was not surprised that Las Vegas took top honors.

After Sept. 11, Maloney said, the Las Vegas tourism industry aggressively marketed itself, "and that was very powerful."

"It was a strong value message, and it wasn't just price. Value is the combination of price and the offer itself, the quality of what they're getting."

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority ran a $13 million advertising campaign in October and November, a spokeswoman said, heavily promoting to the short-haul and drive-in markets of Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston and Phoenix, along with the northern and southern regions of California.

The continuing regional marketing effort is supported by nationwide advertising in USA Today and on cable television, the spokeswoman said.

Besides the effectiveness and timeliness of Las Vegas' marketing efforts, Maloney said, "Vegas is an escape. Don't you think a lot of people were looking for an escape after [Sept. 11]?"

"Being named the top domestic destination bodes extremely well for Las Vegas, particularly during a time when more travelers are choosing to stay closer to home," said Manuel Cortez, president and chief executive of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

"Las Vegas' reputation as the best place in the world to take a break from reality certainly enhances its appeal right now."

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