Amid a worsening travel slump, Nevada officials took the "drastic step" of canceling the state's annual tourism meeting, just six days before it was scheduled to begin.

The Governor's Conference on Tourism was set for the Peppermill Resort Casino in Reno Dec. 8 and 9. This year marked the 25th anniversary of the event, which alternates between Reno and Las Vegas and typically draws about 350 industry executives.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, commission chairman, said in a statement that "it would be imprudent for the Nevada Commission on Tourism to move forward with a conference when the resources being spent can be used much more effectively elsewhere."

The Nevada legislature was called to a special session on Dec. 8 to address a projected 9% drop in the state's two largest revenue sources, sales and gaming taxes.

Canceling the conference was "a drastic step," said commission spokeswoman Bethany Drysdale, and it highlights the severity of the revenue problem for Nevada, where tourism is the No. 1 industry.

Drysdale said it was too early to calculate the costs of canceling the conference, which is partly funded by corporate sponsors. "We'll certainly take a hit in canceling but less of a hit than carrying through with it."

The commission, whose annual budget is derived from three-eighths of the state's 1% room tax, is preparing to slash costs as hotel occupancies drop, Drysdale said. "When hotels have to cut their rates, it affects the tax revenue." 

The most recent data available show a 1.5% drop in arrivals to Nevada from January to June 2008, compared with the same period in 2007. However, the second half of the year is expected to be weaker, Drysdale said.

The latest data from Las Vegas show visitor numbers dropped in September by 10%, to 2.9 million, compared with September 2007, and hotel occupancy dropped 7%, to 84%, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Through October, about 37.7 million passengers have used McCarran Airport in Las Vegas this year, a 6.4% decline from 2007, according to airport statistics.

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