Las Vegas focusing on Int'l market

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Although the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) has been actively promoting travel to Las Vegas in the international marketplace for the last 10 years, it is only within the last five that the organization has intensified its efforts, said Rossi Ralenkotter, the LVCVA's vice president of marketing.

An aggressive marketing campaign in Canada, attendance at major international trade shows and the marketing of the LVCVA's Web site, www.lasvegas24hours.com, to the international community are just a few of the ways that the LVCVA has sought to heighten its profile outside U.S. borders, Ralenkotter said.

The LVCVA's efforts seem to have paid off, with U.S. Department of Commerce statistics indicating that more international visitors are arriving in Las Vegas. For example, in 1997, the last year for which Department of Commerce figures were available, more than 2 million foreign tourists visited, an increase of 6.8% over the previous year.

Those numbers confirm what the visitors authority included in its new five-year strategic plan -- that the international market is one with high growth potential.

To realize this potential, the LVCVA is looking beyond its established offices in Tokyo, London and Munich, Germany, to representation in South Korea and South America. The visitors authority also has teamed up with other entities, such as the Las Vegas Convention Center, McCarran Airport, the Greater Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada Resort Association, to pursue more international, scheduled air service to the city, he said.

In 1998, the city persuaded Northwest Airlines and Japan Air to schedule nonstop flights from Tokyo, Ralenkotter said.

The LVCVA, too, is marketing the city as more than just a gaming destination, he noted. "We have a new message: Las Vegas anything and everything," Ralenkotter said. "We want to get across that there are a variety of new things to do in Las Vegas in addition to gaming. We're now talking about national and international retail shops, spas, restaurants -- and Las Vegas has doubled its number of golf courses in the last 10 years. We want to communicate to international visitors that they can extend their stay in Las Vegas and do everything they want to do here."

That same idea extends to Atlantic City, N.J. where the international market accounts for 2% of the 34 million people that visit the city annually. According to Sara Lindkrantz, vice president of tourism development for the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (ACCVA), overseas visitors there stay an average of four nights, double the average stay of visitors from within the U.S.

The city had been experiencing a slide in recent years in the overseas market, but Lindkrantz said statistics appear to be on an upswing. "I think a lot of that had to do with the availability of [hotel] rooms," she said. "The demand was exceeding the room supply. But in the past few years, [several] properties have expanded."

Transportation, too, was a factor, she said. In late 1996, many of the city's motorcoach operators began to offer a four-day open return on tickets. "Basically, anyone coming from [New York's] Port Authority was given the freedom to return [from Atlantic City] at their leisure," Lindkrantz said. "They didn't have to reserve their roundtrip in advance."

That change, she believes, has played a big role in drawing international visitors to Atlantic City. "In talking to our transportation partners, they say they're seeing a lot more people coming on the motorcoach service with suitcases," she said.

For its part, Lindkrantz said, the visitors authority has been active in trying to increase the international market by working through receptive operators in New York and by attending major trade shows.n

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