Getting foreigners to explore our state

Company hopes to lure international tourists to Western cities for minivan adventures

Kurt Luthy pops up the upstairs penthouse of the Jucy van electronically.

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

Jucy Campervans

Jucy vans are available at the Apollo RV rental facility on Boulder Highway. Launch slideshow »

Tourism marketers for years have been hyping Las Vegas as an international destination and great hub for outdoor adventure.

Now, a New Zealand company has arrived to capitalize on both.

Meet Tim Alpe, the “chief jucyfier” of Jucy Rentals Campervan, which brought a fleet of modified vans to Boulder Highway with plans to rent them to travelers who want to explore the outdoors surrounding Las Vegas.

Alpe and his brother founded Jucy in 2001. They now own more than 2,700 vehicles in New Zealand and Australia and are expanding into the United States with rental operations in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Alpe says his campervans, which are modified in Southern California, are easier to maneuver and more convenient than recreational vehicles.

“Nobody had done the mini-RV in Las Vegas,” he said. “The only option is the big Winnebago, the 24-foot RVs. We think we’re a cheaper and easier option. I don’t think anybody really likes to drive a big one on the Strip.”

Vans are equipped with a gas stove, refrigerator, sink, television and DVD player, with two double beds that can accommodate four people.

The company’s signature lime green and purple vehicles get about 18 miles to the gallon and rent for an average of $45 a night, plus mileage. The typical foreign tourist rents one for 15 to 18 nights.

Alpe expects Las Vegas travelers to visit the region’s state and national parks — Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Great Basin, Death Valley, Lake Mead, Valley of Fire, Cathedral Gorge and Big Bend of the Colorado.

Because the company has two other West Coast locations, it offers one-way rentals, which fits in with many visitors’ itineraries. Overseas travelers often arrive in a gateway city, then rent a car or RV to travel the region. A one-way rental costs an extra $150 to $175.

But Jucy does have a few quirky rules.

You can’t take vehicles to Death Valley between April 15 and Sept. 15. You can’t travel to Alaska or Mexico (Canada is OK). And people who rent campers for the Burning Man Festival have to pay a $700 surcharge to cover the cost of cleaning out desert dust.

Alpe said he is encouraged by prospects in Las Vegas. RV camping is popular with German and Swiss tourists, and next year McCarran International Airport plans to welcome nonstop flights from Zurich. The airport already receives flights from Frankfurt.

If Jucy’s West Coast ventures continue to succeed, Alpe said the brand may expand to the East Coast. He’s eyeing Florida first.

Tags: Business, Opinion
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