State Diversifies Tourism in Face of Competition

Nevada State Flag
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Gov. Kenny Guinn said Tuesday that Nevada continues to diversify its economy, but the state must attract more tourists by extending its global reach and spurring new investment.

"In the fast-moving 21st century, we must stay the course set of diversifying our tourism product and our market," Guinn said at the 20th annual Gov.'s Conference on Tourism at Caesars Palace hotel-casino.

"Even as we unveil each new attraction, we need to have another on the drawing board," he said. "And in many places, this is happening. The construction crane is still Nevada's unofficial state bird."

Guinn joined other state officials and gambling executives for the three-day conference that's examining the state's $35 billion tourism industry and what might be done to strengthen it. The conference began Monday and ends Wednesday.

Guinn said Nevada will be heavily marketed as an adventure destination. The state has begun promoting itself as a place not only for gamblers, but for hikers, kayakers and mountain bikers.

Nevada is launching a new advertising campaign next month called "Nevada: Wide Open" that's expected to generate attention.

But Guinn said "Nevada in no way intends to exclude our traditional powerhouses of gaming and entertainment."

To ensure the gambling temples keep churning out profits, Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt said Nevada recently sent a delegation to China looking for new ways to attract business to the state.

She said direct flights - both passenger and freight - from China to Nevada could be a possibility. Nevada, she said, was banking on China sending visitors to the Silver State.

"I cannot overstate China's significance to Nevada," she said.

Tapping foreign markets is vital to the state's future. Nevada is the fifth most popular U.S. destination for overseas travelers, who make up about 10 percent of visitors to Las Vegas.

Nevada also faces big challenges as Indian gambling in California expands. That is hurting Reno and downtown Las Vegas casinos, said William Eadington, a gambling expert and economist at University of Nevada, Reno.

The Las Vegas Strip has shown only limited growth in the past four years, Eadington said. He said companies have been adding hotel towers and renovating properties, not investing in new megaresorts.

The last major property to open on the Strip was the Aladdin hotel-casino in 2000, which filed for bankruptcy about a year later.

The opening of the $2.4 billion Wynn Las Vegas hotel-casino in the spring of 2005, however, could help trigger development on the Strip.

Eadington said new megaresorts - not additional hotel towers - increase the number of visitors to the city, bolstering tourism and the state's fiscal future.

"People are attracted to Las Vegas in particular when there is something spectacular to see," he said. "And when there is not something new, spectacular to see then the level of visitation and spending in this area flattens out."