RENO, NV - The Safari Club International convention was a nice fit. It brought a big, moneyed crowd to fill up our hotels and restaurants and did it during the slow time of the year.
So, their announcement that they won't be coming to Reno as scheduled in 2015 and may never return is going to hurt to the tune of $20million dollars or more. There's no easy quick way to fill the void.
"You don't replace an event like the Safari Club International," says Ben McDonald of the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority. "Big events like that book four or five years in advance."
It was not apparently, an easy decision. A Safari Club spokesman tells us they formed a bond with our community over the 24 years they've been coming here.
They say they've been treated well, their exhibitors and attendees enjoyed their time here.
And they've been more than just a visitor, sponsoring a feed for the homeless each year.
The decision to look elsewhere, they say, was a matter of accessibility.
While their event has grown, our air service has been shrinking. The number of flights into Reno/Tahoe airport is less than half what it was a few years ago and, the club says if the 18-20,000 expected at their convention in 2015 can't get here, well that's a huge problem.
The Airport Authority says flights follow demand and demand for service has dropped off in recent years. It's partly due, Brian Kulpin of the Reno Tahoe Airport Authority says, to the economic realities of today's airline industry.
But he says, while all of today's attention is on the loss of this one convention, the problem goes far beyond that.
"This is a wake up call for the entire community," he says.
He points out the area is following a marketing strategy focusing on drive-in business from California and that isn't helping build business beyond or the air service that would make the case for more flights.
"It's a chicken and egg proposition," he says.
He points to other states and other communities marketing regionally and nationally, but he says everyone would have to buy in to make that work. The RSCVA, he says, can't do it all.