Paul Szydelko
Paul Szydelko

A car procession on the Las Vegas Strip earlier this month designed to display the resilience of the city's tourism industry was canceled at the last moment, but the spirit behind the effort prevails.

Some 400 tourism and hospitality workers had planned to form a single line in their cars to drive up the Strip on April 1, but Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak earlier in the day formally ordered Nevadans to stay home. The governor also extended the closure of schools, casinos and other nonessential businesses through April 30.

The goal of Light Up Las Vegas was to promote the recovery of the city's tourism industry when the Covid-19 crisis subsides, said event organizer Allison Raskansky, managing director of Best American Destinations, a tourism marketing company.

"It's a sense of unity and a message to the world that Vegas is here and Vegas is strong and guests will return," Raskansky said. "It's an outpouring of community passion and hope and perseverance. United we can accomplish anything."

Motorists, who were not to leave their vehicles, were scheduled to form the procession at a business park, make their way past the iconic "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign and drive north on Las Vegas Boulevard toward Fremont Street downtown. No spectators were expected.

The steady drumbeat of images of the desolate Strip on her social media feed motivated Raskansky, who has been in the Las Vegas destination tourism business since 1987.

"The Las Vegas Strip is not empty, because we're all still here," Raskansky said. "I thought, 'How can we come together and support each other and show that Vegas is here and is going to return without crossing that line of social distance?'  Well, let's fill the Strip like we're used to seeing it with our cars and just preserve that social distance. We're there for one another, we'll see each other in each other's cars, and we'll show the world that we are all still here and we will be back."

The BalanceVille art car, which ascends 50 feet high on a hydraulic lift, was set to lead the parade. The car, designed by Las Vegas artist Tomas Toulec, was on loan from Area15, an art and entertainment complex near the Strip scheduled to open this year. Silver Lining Advertising was to provide other messages supporting tourism.

"Tourism is big and broad, but [we're] a small, tight-knit community," said Raskansky, noting the thousands of tourism and hospitality workers who are out of work. "A lot of what happens with tourism is not just the tourists. There's more to it. We all network, we all brainstorm, we all work together, and it becomes our social network, as well."

Raskansky's Best American Destinations was founded in 2005 and provides tourism advice and assistance to companies seeking to attract global attention. Among the companies it represents are Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, Shelby American, SpeedVegas and Native Solutions, the first Native American helicopter tour company, which opened earlier this year.

"The tourism industry worldwide is very resilient," Raskansky said. "We don't hit a wall; we find solutions. We've proven that in the past, and we're going to get up even stronger."

Although the event she had planned became just another public gathering scrapped, Raskansky said she was still encouraged. "The support everyone showed even after we canceled will carry us through this month, and Vegas will return!"

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