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Chris Jones

Convention Authority Goal: 3.5 Million More Visitors

11 February 2004

LAS VEGAS -- In an effort to aggressively pursue new and underserved travel markets, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on Tuesday unveiled a new five-year marketing plan it hopes will help lure more than 39 million annual visitors to Southern Nevada by 2008.

Last year, Las Vegas hosted approximately 35.5 million visitors, its second-best yearly total ever. To tack on 3.5 million annual visitors to that in years to come, Las Vegas will need to better target everyone from corporate leaders and trade show attendees to foreign visitors and subcategories such as Asians, blacks, homosexuals and frequent Internet users, said Terry Jicinsky, the convention authority's senior vice president of marketing.

"In order to grow future visitation to our destination, we need to capitalize on some new and very specific market segments that we believe have the greatest likelihood of driving additional demand," said Jicinsky, adding the convention authority must also strive to develop and promote the Las Vegas brand among potential visitors.

"We've talked consistently about the threat of Southern California and Indian reservations in terms of how their products evolve," Jicinsky said. "The branding of our destination and distinguishing ourselves from Southern California Indian products will continue to be a key element of the strategic plan."

With 8,000 new hotel rooms and 700,000 square feet of new meeting and exhibit space set to open in the next four years, such efforts are imperative to the city's economic future, he added.

Flanked by Vice President of Sales Nancy Murphy, Jicinsky outlined eight categories tourism officials believe will play an important role in the future Las Vegas.

First, the city will strive to host more corporate meetings, particularly those involving Fortune 500 companies and so-called "conservative" industries that may have previously avoided doing business in Las Vegas because of its risque nature.

Secondly, trade shows and conventions last year brought more than 5.7 million people to town and could continue to serve as a major growth segment. Other cities have recently stepped up their efforts to battle Las Vegas in this sector, however, making it the most competitive visitor segment for the city.

Online consumers represent a significant growth opportunity and will be targeted with more-personalized Web content designed to encourage interest in the city. To that end, tourism officials will also boost their efforts to lure foreign travelers, particularly those from Canada and Mexico.

Looking long-term, Murphy and Jicinsky said areas such as the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, Australia and France offer potential room for growth.

Ethnic marketing will also plan a key role in the five-year plan, with programs aimed at Asians and blacks to be developed in addition to an existing strong Hispanic marketing initiative.

Gay and lesbian travelers, who make up an estimated $54 billion market segment, will also be targeted, as will visitors aged 25-34 and those attracted to special events such as the Super Bowl, Independence Day and Cinco de Mayo.

The convention authority's latest five-year plan is a continuation of a similar effort launched in 1998 but cut short by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and subsequent recovery period. The new strategy was co-developed by Las Vegas-based R&R Partners, the convention authority's contracted advertising agency.