‘What happens here’ has been a hit everywhere
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While there are dozens of classic examples of ad campaigns gone wrong when they’re translated into foreign languages, “What happens here, stays here” as a pitch for Las Vegas appears to have broad international appeal.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors this week received a report on its international marketing efforts as it works to fine-tune campaigns to attract a greater percentage of foreign visitors over the next decade.
One of the key takeaways: The slogan has strong worldwide appeal and leaves a favorable impression with people in some of the major markets and emerging markets where the LVCVA is prospecting.
“The adult freedom message communicated by ‘What happens here, stays here’ seems to resonate in the countries we studied,” said Mike Dabadie, president and managing partner of Washington-based Heart + Mind Strategies, which was contracted to do international research for the LVCVA.
The LVCVA has long maintained that boosting international tourism would be a key goal because foreign visitors stay longer and spend more than their domestic counterparts. The percentage of international visitors to Las Vegas has increased from 12 percent in 2007 to 16 percent in 2011. LVCVA President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter has stated that it’s the organization’s goal to have 30 percent international by 2020.
The 2011 visitor profile developed by the LVCVA said 6.23 million international visitors came to Las Vegas in 2011, spending an estimated $7.6 billion on lodging, dining, shopping, entertainment, sightseeing, local transportation and gaming. That 16 percent of visitors from other countries represented 29 percent of the total spending.
The LVCVA calculated that foreign visitors directly support 65,500 jobs in Southern Nevada.
Dabadie and his team interviewed more than 200 people in 36 sessions in each country this year in Canada, Mexico, Great Britain and Brazil. Canada, Mexico and Great Britain are Las Vegas’ largest foreign markets, and Brazil is considered an emerging market with great promise.
The report determined:
• In Canada, Las Vegas has brand appeal and the public knows what to expect during a visit. Canada’s society is generally conservative and its economy is sluggish, but that doesn’t stop Canadians from traveling. Researchers said 57 percent of those interviewed had been to Las Vegas.
• In Mexico, Las Vegas has brand appeal, but it’s not a top-of-mind destination because of the proximity of other tourist destinations. Las Vegas represents an escape from social norms and the city is perceived as glamorous and a good value. The current economy is favorable for most travelers and Mexicans spend twice as much per night as visitors from Anglo countries.
• In Great Britain, Las Vegas has brand appeal but British travelers are more likely to want to travel to New York or Orlando, Fla. Many view Las Vegas as a “somewhat tacky American” destination and the poor economy discourages some travel here.
• In Brazil, Las Vegas has some of the strongest brand appeal among nations surveyed and the economy also is strong. But the distance to Las Vegas makes it a less likely top-of-mind destination choice and only 17 percent of Brazilians surveyed had been to Las Vegas. Brazilian travelers also spend twice as much on vacation as their Anglo counterparts and visitors from that country have the greatest identity with “What happens here, stays here.”
LVCVA officials believe Brazil has significant promise because the State Department is working hard to minimize delays in securing travel visas there. In addition, Panama-based Copa Airlines inaugurated nonstop flights from Panama City to McCarran International Airport in June. The airline has arranged its schedule to connect passengers from South America through Panama City.
Copa immediately increased the number of flights to Las Vegas from three a week to five a week and in December, the service will go daily.
Copa isn’t the only airline that’s increasing capacity to Las Vegas. Later this month, British Airways will add three flights a week from London’s Gatwick International Airport to Las Vegas to complement its daily service between Heathrow International Airport and Las Vegas. Korean Air is increasing the number of seats to the Las Vegas market by 15 percent by changing the planes it uses on its routes from Seoul from an Airbus A330 jet to a Boeing 777.
The “What happens here, stays here” slogan appears to translate well to foreigners.
Some brands haven’t been as lucky. Gerber, the baby food maker, translates in French to “vomit.” When General Motors introduced its Chevrolet Nova in South America, sales waned because “no va” translated to “it won’t go.”
But most residents of Canada, Mexico and Great Britain have heard of “What happens here, stays here” and it left a favorable impression with many potential tourists.
The study said 94 percent of those surveyed had heard of the slogan in Mexico, 88 percent in Canada, 66 percent in Great Britain and 49 percent in Brazil. The survey left a favorable impression with 84 percent of those surveyed in Mexico, 69 percent in Canada, 65 percent in Great Britain and 90 percent in Brazil.