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Gaming Guru

Chris Jones
 

Nevada Governor Pushes for Improvements

8 December 2004

RENO, Nevada -- With Nevada on pace this year to host a record 50 million-plus annual visitors, Gov. Kenny Guinn said Tuesday the state must capitalize on its unprecedented popularity by using portions of today's tourism windfall to pay for improvements that will make the state more attractive to different industries.

Speaking at the annual Governor's Conference on Tourism at the Reno Hilton, the Republican politician praised the more than 600 travel professionals in attendance for their industry's ongoing contributions to the state's economy. But Guinn also cautioned that Nevada leaders must continually add assets that build long-term wealth that is less-susceptible to the ups and downs that frequently affect the global travel market.

"Everyone benefits from tourism because tourism means revenue, and that translates to more jobs," Guinn said. "But we need to build capital as opposed to just cash flow.

"Nevada will fail if we do not create wealth in the equity of our state. If you don't have assets, you will eventually fail. But the changes that have taken place (in this year's tourism revenue) will give us the resources we need."

Last year's $833 million tax increase approved by the state Legislature has so far been supplemented by major increases in collected sales and gaming taxes. Last week, the Economic Forum, a group of five private business leaders who help set the state budget, said a booming economy would likely present the state government with an extra $320 million in tax revenue than was forecast for the current budget period.

When possible, Guinn said excess revenue should be devoted to programs that improve Nevada's educational system and infrastructure in order to attract more manufacturing, technology and nontravel industries to the Silver State.

About 30 percent of Nevada jobs are related to tourism, and Guinn said the state has over the past two years added approximately 120,000 "quality jobs" that pay a livable wage.

"When times are tight, tourism will level off, but we'd still have companies shipping products off to other places," Guinn said of adding more manufacturing jobs, for example.

"The hotel base can't take care of us without help from all others."

The state will hardly turn its back on tourism, however, and Guinn praised the industry for its ability to evolve and stay ahead of its competitors.

"Every time we look over our shoulders, another destination will be trying to overtake us," Guinn said.

"We have to keep shooting, or someone will overtake us in the quest to dominate worldwide tourism."

Guinn said new developments in Las Vegas, including Wynn Las Vegas and MGM Mirage's Project CityCenter, will bring more visitors to Southern Nevada. Many of those travelers are likely to head north to see Reno and Take Tahoe, he added, further fueling the statewide tourism engine.

The governor also said outside competition, such as from tribal gaming, has been good for Nevada's travel industry because it sparked diversification efforts such as high-end shopping, adventure travel and entertainment. Looking forward, he said Nevada businesses must continue to train their employees to be good hosts.

"Our most important export is to try to satisfy visitors," he said.