Push for foreign Las Vegas visitation pays dividends
Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
1 July 2011
Las Vegas visitors from South Korea and China increased by 60 and 38 percent last year, respectively, while visitors from Canada, Australia, Germany and France increased by more than 20 percent for each country, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said Friday.
Last year’s 6.7 million foreign visitors spent $6.6 billion in Southern Nevada, accounting for 27 percent of tourism revenue. That figure is growing as local officials step up efforts to attract foreign tourists who tend to stay longer and spend more money than their domestic counterparts — a trend that’s helping recession-battered Las Vegas.
The average international visitor spent $1,011 on nongambling activities compared with $627 spent by the average domestic visitor, according to the authority’s annual visitor profile.
Within 10 years, the authority hopes to increase to 30 percent the percentage of visitors from other countries, which rose to 18 percent last year from 14 percent in 2009.
The authority attributes the increase to more aggressive marketing efforts, favorable exchange rates, improvements in foreign economies and an overall increase in foreign tourism in the United States.
“When the U.S. gains in international travel, Las Vegas typically mirrors, if not exceeds that increase,” said Kevin Bagger, the authority’s senior director of marketing.
The authority and McCarran International Airport officials are working to secure more international nonstop flights to Las Vegas.
Since April, Las Vegas has hosted new nonstop flights from Guadalajara, Mexico and Manchester, England. British Airways has expanded capacity on its nonstop flights from London by 18 percent, and France’s XL Airways reinstituted a seasonal nonstop flight from Paris.
Tourism officials are pressing the federal government to ease visa restrictions in China, a booming economy where visitors to the U.S. are expected to increase 219 percent by 2015, according to federal estimates. South Koreans have flocked to Las Vegas and other U.S. tourism destinations after visa requirements were lifted by the United States in 2008.
The authority has contracts with 15 marketing offices used to promote Las Vegas in more than 70 countries, including growth areas such as South Korea, China and India. Up to 80 percent of Las Vegas’ foreign visitors come from Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
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