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Best of Benjamin Spillman

Gaming Guru

Benjamin Spillman
 

Authority pushes impulse in ad blitz

12 March 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- It's hard to think about gambling, boozing and eating at fancy restaurants with bills piling up and creditors circling the neighborhood.

That's where the Las Vegas marketing machine steps in.

On Tuesday, Las Vegas boosters announced they will spend as much as $12 million to keep tourists and conventioneers coming despite high gasoline prices, sagging consumer confidence and a global credit crisis.

The campaign, called Vegas Right Now, urges customers called "Vegas Enthusiasts" and others to book spontaneous trips to Sin City.

"Every magazine and every newspaper and every television station has covered the economy. This campaign will address some of that," said Terry Jicinsky, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The authority, a group that includes government officials and leaders from the largest hotel-casinos in Las Vegas, conducted a similar campaign in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that slowed tourism and prompted widespread layoffs in the hospitality industry.

"We didn't just wait for the market to turn around," said board member James Gibson, who is also mayor of Henderson. "We went out and created the perception ourselves."

Since then, the market rebounded and Las Vegas embarked on its biggest hotel building boom ever, with as many as 40,000 new hotel rooms slated for development by 2012.

The new campaign has been in the works since late November, when Las Vegas marketers noticed signs that the slowing economy threatened the prosperity of the nation's No. 1 tourist destination. The ads are scheduled to run through June.

The Vegas Right Now unveiling coincided with the announcement of another campaign by the Vegas.com Web site. That $20 million campaign, called The Vegas Experts, features Vegas.com employees scouting parties, clubs and hotels on behalf of Web site users.

The Vegas Experts announcement made no mention of the slumping economy.

"Now we're reinforcing our local expertise, contacts and ability to create an experience that only the true Vegas Experts can deliver," Vegas.com president Howard Lefkowitz said.

Research presented during the authority's monthly meeting, however, showed declines in arrivals and departures at McCarran International Airport, decreasing traffic from Southern California and a dip in casino gambling revenue.

"Fuel prices are going up, the housing market hasn't rebounded," said Billy Vasiliadis, chief executive officer of R&R Partners, the company that developed the authority's "What happens here, stays here" campaign. "We are going to continue to see a downward trend."

The campaign's goal is to use print, television and online ads to entice potential customers to the authority's Web site. Once those customers arrive, the site will provide frequent updates and links to events, special offers and Las Vegas news.

About two dozen Las Vegas hotels have already posted offers on the site.

"Obviously as the economy goes badly, the first thing people look for is affordability and value," Vasiliadis said.

The ads will be targeted in short-haul markets such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and San Francisco. The ads will also target customers in Boston, Atlanta and Dallas.

"Las Vegas is not alone out there," Jicinsky said. "Our competitors are doing the same thing."

Jicinsky cited efforts by Orlando, Fla.; Hawaii; Texas; and New York tourism boosters.

He said New York recently embarked on a campaign aimed at diverting international travelers from Las Vegas and other destinations to New York City.

"We are just as interested as tapping into that market and driving those visitors to Las Vegas instead of the East Coast," Jicinsky said.