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Gaming Guru

Chris Jones
 

Las Vegas Targets South America

2 September 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Although Las Vegas has a reputation as the nation's top trade show market, those behind the city's thriving convention industry are continually hunting for new areas from which to draw business travelers.

Within the next two weeks, that quest will take a major turn south -- about 6,076 miles south-southeast, to be exact.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and several trade show partners have planned a first combined convention sales conference before South American business leaders and media outlets.

Director Chris Meyer said Tuesday he's confident those involved will benefit from added exposure within what's now a largely untapped market south of the equator.

"They're going to be able to establish a relationship with a key contact at these shows, and I think that will go a long way toward getting more of the Latin American audience to come" to Las Vegas, Meyer said of the Brazilians that trip participants will meet in their weeklong journey that begins Sept. 12.

The sales trip resulted after five of the Las Vegas Convention Center's largest clients expressed a shared interest in using the Las Vegas brand to promote their respective events outside the United States, particularly in Asia and South America, which offer more upside than the already saturated European customer base.

Sao Paulo, Brazil, described as the heart of that nation's economy, was selected as the first targeted destination, which could benefit Las Vegas in more ways than one, Meyer said.

"This is obviously a growth market," Meyer said, citing Sao Paulo's approximately 19 million nearby residents. "Once you get the business portion comfortable traveling here, you'll get a `bounce effect' where they will consider Las Vegas as a tourist destination.

"Maybe they were focused before on going to Orlando (Florida) or Miami or that type of area; now we can move them west and bring them to us."

Big exhibitors such as ConExpo-Con/Agg, a construction equipment and materials trade show that brings more than 100,000 people to Las Vegas every three years, are less interested in drawing leisure travelers to the Strip, however. Spokeswoman Petra Kaiser said her top priority in Sao Paulo will be in finding more Brazilian customers for ConExpo-Con/Agg's 2,300 exhibitors, a group that already ships a combined $300 million in products to that nation each year.

The show has previously made promotional trips to South America, Kaiser said, but without the added lure of other exhibitors or the city's recognized marketing prowess.

"We always hear from our attendees that they come for the show, but they always come for the location, as well," said Kaiser of Las Vegas' appeal.

Added Reed Exhibitions Vice President Dean Russo: "With Las Vegas as a brand out in the forefront, we felt (the convention authority) would be able to create some interest and get the type of exposure ... that made sense for us considering how many shows we have there."

Reed Exhibitions' nine local trade shows include the National Hardware Show, October's Global Gaming Expo and next week's International Vision Expo and Conference.

Others scheduled for the Sao Paulo trip include the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on January's International Consumer Electronics Show; the National Association of Broadcasters; VNU Expositions, whose 14 Las Vegas shows include GlobalShop and ShoWest; and the U.S. Commercial Service, a Department of Commerce unit that assists small- and medium-size businesses sell their goods and services overseas.

The Specialty Equipment Market Association and Men's Apparel Guild in California, whose SEMA and MAGIC Marketplace trade shows are two of this city's largest recurring events, also lobbied for the Brazil trip but were unable to participate this year. A similar trip is planned for next year to an undetermined Asian city.

Fourteen people are scheduled to go to Brazil, including Meyer and Rafael Villanueva, the convention authority's representative to Latin America. Participants will pay their own way, though the convention authority will spend $45,000 for a reception, ground transportation and other shared expenses.

"It's much easier to keep a client, and less expensive, than it is to go out and find new ones," said Meyer, who called the expenditure a "reinvestment" in some of Las Vegas' largest business clients.