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International Tourists in Las Vegas Outspend Domestic Travelers

Analyst Shows Foreign Visitors Spend 94% More While in Las Vegas
and 194% More on Nongaming Purchases

By Richard N. Velotta, Las Vegas SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 10, 2012--Southern Nevada has always known that foreign tourism is lucrative. But how lucrative?

Applied Analysis principal Jeremy Aguero cited examples for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors Tuesday, quantifying what most experts have believed all along.

Aguero said there were 6.2 million people who visited Las Vegas from foreign countries in 2011 -- roughly one visitor in six. Yet $1 of every $4 spent by tourists in Las Vegas was by a foreign visitor and $1 of every $3 spent in nongaming purchases was by an international traveler.

Aguero said the average domestic traveler spends $590 while in Las Vegas, compared with $1,146 by foreign travelers -- a 94 percent premium. When it comes to shopping, domestic visitors spend an average of $99, while international visitors spend $291 -- a 194 percent premium.

"I'm very optimistic about what the 2012 numbers will show because of all the growth we've experienced with international routes," Aguero said. "If you look at some of our competitors, they're trying to replicate the Las Vegas experience, but there's only one Las Vegas."

Several companies in Macau are building a strip of casino-resorts. The so-called "Cotai Strip" in Macau is known as "Asia's Las Vegas." Las Vegas Sands, which runs the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas, operates a major integrated resort in Singapore called the Marina Bay Sands.

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the LVCVA, said the organization established a goal of attracting 30 percent of its visitors from foreign countries by 2020. Currently, the number is about 16 percent. But Ralenkotter said there has been a dramatic increase in the number of seats arriving from overseas markets in recent years, including new flights by ArkeFly from Amsterdam, Air Berlin from Dusseldorf and Copa Airlines from Panama City in the last two months.

In May, the LVCVA approved two-year contracts for offices representing Las Vegas overseas [] The strategically placed offices give the city direct touch to 45 countries.

Ralenkotter said that while 70 percent of foreign visitors are from three countries -- Canada, Mexico and Great Britain -- the LVCVA hopes to make progress within the so-called BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China, which have emerging middle-class economies with pent-up travel demand.

"We need to keep punching this bag until it falls off," said Las Vegas Councilman Steve Ross, an LVCVA board member.

One other related issue that Ross has raised is a proposal to change the name of McCarran International Airport to Las Vegas International.

Ross polled other board members about their feelings about changing the airport's name, and North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck requested the proposal be aired at the LVCVA's next board meeting Aug. 14.

In other business, the board received a report from Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson on special events. He said the USA Basketball Showcase event Thursday is sold out and that it is evolving into a signature event for the city -- a major gathering supported by multiple resort properties.

Christenson also said his organization plans to meet with law enforcement officers in the weeks ahead to come up with a strategy to solve traffic problems that developed with the staging of the Electric Daisy Carnival at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in June.

The electronic music festival, Christenson said, is turning into a signature event and he wants to work out traffic problems to keep sponsor Insomniac Productions happy. Christenson envisions the Electric Daisy Carnival expanding to accommodate 500,000 people over a three-day weekend, up from the 345,000 the event drew this year.

Insomniac, he said, envisions acquiring 200 to 300 acres to build an event venue in Southern Nevada so that it can stage six or seven music festival events a year.

The LVCVA board also approved spending $375,000 to sponsor the IMEX America Ltd. International trade show at the Sands Expo Center Oct. 9-11; $147,500 to market the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open golf tournament Oct. 1-7; $25,000 to market the 2012 Indian National Finals Rodeo at the South Point Casino and Event Center Nov. 6-10; and $25,000 for the 2013 City of Las Vegas Mayor's Cup International Showcase soccer tournament at several local soccer complexes Feb. 15-18.

The board also approved a five-year lease extension with options for four more years with FedEx Office to operate a business center at the Las Vegas Convention Center through January 2018. The contract is expected to generate $1.9 million for the agency over five years.

The board also approved the reappointment of Paul Chakmak, vice president and chief operating officer of Boyd Gaming, to a two-year term on the board and Greg Lee, president of the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite, to a two-year term, replacing Marilyn Spiegel, president of Wynn Las Vegas.


(c)2012 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)

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