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Chris Jones

Wanted in Las Vegas: More British Business

15 May 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada and UK -- British vacationers have for years crossed the Atlantic to trade London fog for a brief run of Las Vegas sun and fun.

And now that England's leisure travel connection is thriving locally, Las Vegas leaders hope the buttoned-down lot of British businessmen and businesswomen will soon chart a similar course.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is hosting a weekend gathering of the Guild of Travel Management Companies, a British trade group whose members specialize in business traveler needs.

Though the guild includes only 32 agencies, its companies' combined market share is approximately 80 percent of England's business travel booked through an agency.

In 2000 alone, that amounted to $13.1 billion in sales.

"We're a voice that will be heard by government regulators as well as suppliers," Chief Executive Officer Philip Carlisle said of the guild's economic and political clout.

Guild members have gathered at The Venetian alongside suppliers that include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways, American Express Travel, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Avis Rent A Car.

While in town, they'll attend classes and tour area attractions including Bonnie Springs Ranch and Lake Las Vegas' spas and golf courses.

The authority hopes such first-hand exposure will help guild members book more meetings, conventions and incentive travel packages at Las Vegas resorts.

"Now that we have five-star restaurants, golf courses and spas, the incentive and business market segments look more favorably on Las Vegas as a high-end destination or luxury destination," Terry Jicinsky, senior vice president of marketing, said Friday.

Incentive travel is a popular corporate practice of rewarding top sales people or other key employees with company-financed getaways as a reward for exceptional work. The evolution of Las Vegas' leisure amenities has indirectly made the city a competitive destination for incentive trips, Jicinsky said.

"They're used to going to prestigious destinations such as beach communities, Monte Carlo, Paris, New York and San Francisco," Jicinsky said. "Now that we can compete with those destinations head-to-head ... we can be competitive within the incentive market segment."

Direct flights with first- and business-class service, which Virgin Atlantic now offers daily between London and McCarran International, also bolsters the city's cause, he added.

Guild chairman Paul Allan said this weekend's events are "a prime gateway to driving business people into Las Vegas."

Britons widely recognize this as a leisure getaway, Allan said, but many are not aware of how much business is done in Southern Nevada. Guild members regularly work with corporate clients who spend tens of thousands to millions of British pounds on business travel, Allan said.

Given the significance of those expenditures, he also said firsthand tours are valuable because guild clients "need to know if the destinations we're recommending to them are good enough to look after them."

This weekend's Las Vegas trip follows past stops in Lake Tahoe, Boston, San Francisco and cities in Florida.

Overseas destinations have included Shanghai, China; Madrid; Hong Kong; and Sydney, Australia.