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Chris Jones

Las Vegas Officials Roll Out Alfombra Roja

9 August 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- "Long live the meadows" doesn't quite pack the same punch.

Fortunately, local travel leaders are confident cries of "Viva Las Vegas" will soon resonate elsewhere following this week's visit from eight Spanish-language journalists.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority regularly hosts familiarization tours for out-of-market media members.

Once the wining and dining concludes, the authority hopes its one-time guests will return the favor through positive coverage of Las Vegas in their newspapers, magazines or television programs.

This week's 2 1/2-day tour, which ended Friday, was the first time Las Vegas hosted a "fam trip" specifically for a Hispanic audience.

Participant Victor Field, publisher of Los Angeles-based Mundo L.A. and the national director of the Hispanic Newspaper Network, is pleased that Las Vegas wants to raise its profile among this country's Spanish speakers.

"It's very important that Las Vegas does this because it's the No. 1 destination for Hispanics in the United States," Field said, citing a recent Travel Industry Association of America survey result. "It solidifies the relationship."

This city's 10 biggest feeder markets are home to 80 percent of the nation's Hispanic residents, he said, stressing the potential business that's at stake.

Field said many casino operators have caught on, as evidenced by the many Strip boxing cards and concerts by Latin music headliners. Those special events -- and the city's assortment of neon lights, amusement rides and production shows -- continue to drive Hispanic visitors here, he added.

"Families enjoy coming here together because there are more things for families to do," Field said.

Mario Duenas, publisher of La Semana, a Houston-based weekly, said his coverage will focus on adult activities because his readers don't believe Las Vegas is a good place to vacation with young children. Still, he said the city's overall appeal is undeniable.

"Within walking distance of your hotel, you can see anything you want," said Duenas, whose newspaper is published by Newspan Media. "(Hispanics) always look at Las Vegas because it's such an intrinsic part of the nation."

These days, so are Hispanics. Estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that Nevada's Hispanic population grew by 44 percent from 2000 to 2005 and now stands at 568,356. That is 23.5 percent of the state population of more than 2.4 million as of July 1, 2005.

Hispanics accounted for 26 percent of Clark County's 1.7 million residents.

Along with Los Angeles and Houston, participating journalists represented newspapers in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle.

Their activities included a cocktail reception and steakhouse dinner at Bally's; tickets to "Jubilee!" and "Le Reve" at Wynn Las Vegas; tours of The Venetian and Forum Shops at Caesars; and nightlife at MGM Grand's Studio 54, The Venetian's Tao and Mix atop The Hotel at Mandalay Bay.

Efforts were made to showcase attractions from as many different gaming operators as were interested, authority spokeswoman Erika Yowell said.

The tour's cost has not been determined, but the authority picked up air fare and transportation expenses while participating resorts provided show tickets, meals and hotel rooms. The authority's contracted ad agency, R&R Partners, coordinated the events.

In 2003, the authority aired its first original Spanish-language radio and television advertisements created specifically to bring more Hispanic visitors to the Las Vegas Valley. Prior to that, it translated English ad copy into Spanish, a practice that failed to adequately capitalize on the Hispanic market's unique characteristics.

In 1999 and 2000, only 4 percent of local visitors were Hispanic, according to visitor survey data collected on the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas. Thanks in part to the new outreach, that percentage was 7 percent each year from 2003 through 2005.

A group of Hispanic journalists in January toured Laughlin, which will host the third annual "Viva Laughlin!" festival targeting Hispanic travelers Oct. 6-9.