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Chris Jones

Official: Las Vegas-China Flight Possible

29 June 2006

LAS VEGAS -- Efforts to promote Nevada's tourism industry are paying off in Asia and could soon result in direct air service from China, a state tourism leader said Wednesday.

Bruce Bommarito, director of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, said a recent trade mission to Asia laid the groundwork for a forthcoming friendship agreement with the government of Guangzhou, a southeastern China metropolis with more than 10 million residents.

That agreement would be largely ceremonial, but Bommarito said its larger purpose involves the launch of direct air service between that city and Nevada.

"We hope to see our first charter flight within a year," Bommarito said. "We're going to keep talking about flights and meeting with people until we find somebody to fly an airplane here."

Bommarito recently returned from the commission's annual tourism-building mission in China, Japan and South Korea. While in Asia, state government and business leaders visited Beijing and Guangzhou to tout Nevada's hotel and entertainment offerings as well as its adventure and cultural attractions.

Last year, the U.S. government issued 530,000 visas to Chinese visitors, an increase from 2004. Updated visa policies approved in Washington last year were designed to make travel to the United States easier, Bommarito said.

Chinese tourism officials have told Bommarito at least 90 percent of Chinese who visit the United States include Nevada in their trip.

State leaders also plan to visit India later this year as an exploratory trip. Research shows India "is really coming on strong" as that nation's economy develops and more of its residents possess the means and desire to travel abroad, Bommarito said.

"That's another billion potential customers for Nevada," Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, who is commission chairwoman, said of India.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority in April announced it will conduct its own October trade mission to the Indian cities of Mumbai and New Delhi. Representatives of 10 to 15 Las Vegas trade shows are expected to go along.

In other business Wednesday, the commission approved a resolution supporting the creation of a tourism improvement district around a proposed Cabela's retail store in Reno. Cabela's wants to finance a 125,000-square-foot store using sales taxes anticipated revenue bonds to be repaid through taxes generated within the district.

State law allows for such measures if the commission determines that most of the district's taxable sales would come from out-of-state visitors.

Cabela's 14 U.S. stores already lure travelers to cities in Nebraska and Texas, much like rival Bass Pro Shops draws people to Las Vegas and the Silverton. The governor and Reno City Council must still sign off before a special tax district for Cabela's $70 million project can be set up.