Executive View Rossi Ralenkotter Las Vegas

Six executives from six sectors of the travel industry  hotel, cruise, aviation, tours, retail and destination marketing  are making assumptions about the year ahead as they plan for 2017. The interviews were conducted by Travel Weekly editor in chief and senior vice president Arnie Weissmann. 

Rossi Ralenkotter

CEO, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

Rossi Ralenkotter
Rossi Ralenkotter

International is our fastest-growing market segment, and during the course of 2017, McCarran Airport is converting seven more gates for international flights.

Our three largest international source markets  the U.K., Mexico and Canada  represent about 50% of the international travel to Las Vegas, and they have been showing good growth patterns, anywhere from 3% to 5% increases year over year. We believe that will continue.

We've been watching and monitoring Canada, where the currency is weak, but we've increased the amount of airlift out of there, so there's a lot of competition throughout the country for flights to Las Vegas, and that's making the pricing competitive.

We're seeing good increases from Australia; in fact, for a couple of quarters, we saw double digits there.
And then the growth in the emerging markets of India and China is also very strong.

We believe that China will be in the top four within the next two years, up from sixth. We just started a nonstop flight from Beijing to Las Vegas on Hainan Airlines.

Our convention attendance by internationals has been increasing for the big trade shows. We have 14 offices throughout the world that represent us, and we've been really working hard on the meetings, incentives, convention and events markets and on getting nonstop international flights. They can come to Las Vegas first, spend three, four days, then see some of the national parks and maybe see some of the other areas of the Southwest.

We believe that we'll be close to 43 million visitors for this year and are projecting over 43 million in 2017. The infrastructure of the roadway moving in and out of McCarran is being improved; they're putting two more lanes in the connector that goes underneath the airport.

If December comes in like the rest of the year, our hotels will come in at about 90% occupancy. Advance bookings on the leisure side for 2017 are tracking very well, and the advanced bookings on meetings, trade shows and conventions are very strong across the board. The convention center, as well as Mandalay and the Sands, are all projecting over a 70% occupancy level in our [meetings areas]; anything over 70% is really over 100% when you take into account move in/move out dates.

We've been No. 1 for 22 straight years for trade shows, and we believe that will continue for us both this year as well as next. Attendance numbers at shows had a 7.5% increase over the previous year, as far as attendance from both exhibitors and attendees goes.

Plus, all the things that are happening in the destination continue to increase demand. We have an NHL team that will start playing in '17. The Monte Carlo just opened the 5,200-seat Park Theater that's got Bruno Mars, Cher and the Backstreet Boys [concerts]. 

And this month the Lucky Dragon Hotel opened up a boutique hotel-casino, 203 rooms, right across from the SLS on Sahara Ave., and their target market is Chinese travelers. Resorts World is continuing with their project, and we'll be breaking ground with our $1.4 billion expansion/renovation of the convention center.

And, of course, the resorts continue to make adjustments in the dining experience, the shopping experience and the entertainment.

So it's going to be a strong year, and hopefully some new announcements from some of the properties will come as the year unfolds.

On the political front, there's a brand-new transportation subcommittee, and we're going to have a chance to interface with the secretary of transportation to give input from our industry for the first time on transportation projects and so forth.

We need to just make sure that, as an industry, we provide information to the new administration coming in and to the new [Cabinet] secretaries about the value of travel and tourism and conventions and job creation and so forth.
We're going to work very closely, and we'll continue to monitor the issues and weigh in, with U.S. Travel, when it comes to the advocacy side.

The president-elect indicated that one of the things he's going to be pushing is improvement of travel infrastructure, so we have that. He's part of the travel industry and understands destination marketing and all of the things that happen here.

CORRECTION: Rossi Ralenkoter is CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The name of the organization was given incorrectly in an earlier version of this article.

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