Angling for a bump in tourism

By hosting World Routes conference last month, city had chance to woo airline execs

Londons airports offered a replica of Big Ben on the trade show floor of World Routes 2013 on Oct. 7, 2013.

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

The dust has settled at the Las Vegas Convention Center and McCarran International Airport since the city hosted World Routes 2013, the annual aviation conference that brings together airline and airport representatives from around the world.

World Routes had never been hosted in North America, and Las Vegas got to break the ice for the United States last month.

Tourism leaders saw hosting the event as a coup because airports that bring the event to their cities typically see a bump in passenger traffic as a result. The local contingent aimed to raise the bar so high that Chicago, which will host the convention next year, would have a tough time clearing it.

World Routes offered local leaders the chance to woo airline executives into bringing passengers here or drop a few more flights into Las Vegas.

Participants said the meetings were like “speed dating.” Destinations had 15 minutes to pitch an airline before a timer went off and everyone headed to the next powwow. More than 7,900 face-to-face meetings took place.

As host, Las Vegas had the advantage of being able to schedule as many meetings as possible — in this case, 55, four times as many as any previous host. Guests’ meetings were limited.

Unfortunately, Las Vegas probably won’t see any big payoff — if there is one — for up to two years. That’s because it will take time for airlines to analyze Las Vegas as a destination. Most carriers plan their schedules six months to a year in advance. Some airlines also are in a holding pattern awaiting delivery of planes capable of making a long flight to Las Vegas.

Other observations from World Routes:

• About 62 percent of participants changed their perceptions about Las Vegas for the better after being here, realizing the city is a great host for conferences and business meetings in addition to a leisure destination.

• About 73 percent said they planned to return to Las Vegas for a vacation.

• Las Vegas invested $2.2 million to host the event, and organizers said the city received $1.3 million in media value from journalists covering the show.

• Turnout was light for a golf tournament, which organizers later discovered was due to the fact that many people arranged to tour the Grand Canyon, Valley of Fire and Red Rock National Conservation Area instead.

• Organizers were impressed by the partnership between the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and airport, a relationship they hope to model for other events.

Tags: Opinion, Business