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Richard N. Velotta

Officials to Tout Las Vegas on Trip to China

8 June 2005

A delegation of Nevada government officials and business people hopes to leave the impression in China that Nevada is the only place to vacation when taking a trip to the United States.

Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt and State Treasurer Brian Krolicki are the top government leaders making the weeklong trip to Shanghai and Beijing that will include seminars about the state with 100 travel professionals and visits with three top airline executives in China.

"Other states have gone, but they don't get the coverage we get," said Bruce Bommarito, executive director of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, which is organizing the trip. "The China National Tourism Authority already says Las Vegas is the No. 1 destination of Chinese tourists. We want everybody there to think that going to the United States means going to Nevada."

Nevada tourism leaders are forbidden from telling the Chinese about the gaming industry. Instead, they focus on other activities available in Las Vegas.

Representatives of the Nevada Wedding Association, tour operator Papillon Helicopters, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority are among those making the trip.

Bommarito said most members of the delegation, including Krolicki, are paying their own way. Hunt, as chairwoman of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, and two of her staff members as well as Bommarito and three other NCOT staffers will have their $5,000 to $8,000 in expenses each picked up by taxpayers.

In addition paying their own expenses, business people also are paying a sponsorship fee to be a part of the group.

Bommarito said that because building long-lasting relationships with the Chinese is a prime goal, it's important to have high-ranking government officials make the trip.

"They're a little more status-conscious there," he said. "They like it when high-ranking government people show an interest. Here, we discount the role of the treasurer, for example, but in China, he'll help us a lot. They're not going to meet with the director of tourism, but they like having a mayor, a vice mayor or a governor. They'll open a lot of doors."

Hunt, who has made several Asian trips during her tenure as lieutenant governor, has been one of the most enthusiastic advocates for building a relationship with China.

The delegation hopes to further the relationship with scheduled meetings with representatives of United, Northwest and Asiana airlines. While the LVCVA, McCarran International Airport and the Commission on Tourism are trying to establish nonstop flights linking China with Las Vegas, no service announcements are expected to be made during the visit.

"Having nonstop flights is crucial for the development of tourism to Nevada from China," Bommarito said. "We look at this as another step in that direction."

In addition to meeting with the airline executives, Bommarito said the group would meet with the China Aviation Commission, the counterpart to the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States.

Hunt also has a series of press conferences scheduled during the trip. She has become a familiar face in China on behalf of the state after her previous visits.

Bommarito reported on the planned tourism mission at the quarterly Commission on Tourism meeting on Tuesday.

In other business, commissioners saw clips from the upcoming broadcast of "Nevada Passage," a made-for-television event that featured amateur athletes competing in six scenic Nevada locations.

The department hopes the airing of the competition on syndicated broadcasts will encourage adventure travelers to make a trip to rural Nevada.

Commissioners already are gearing up for the next edition of the competition, which probably will include competitions at three of the best locations from this year's event and three new locations and adventures. This year, "Nevada Passage competitors climbed the sandstone walls of Red Rock Canyon, raced on personal watercraft in Lake Mead, went on a cross-country orienteering adventure near Ely, rode mountain bikes and snowshoed at Lamoille Canyon near Elko, sandboarded on dunes near Fallon and kayaked on the Truckee River from Verdi to Reno.

Bommarito said the response by television stations to purchase the syndicated show has surpassed his expectations. The show is expected to be aired on the Las Vegas CBS affiliate, but a date has not been scheduled.

"The people who participated just raved about the locations," Bommarito said. "We couldn't have done better if we had gone out and paid actors to say what they said."