Nevada tourism officials target Asian travelers

Dec 31, 2007 5:40 AM

At last month’s governor’s conference on tourism in Las Vegas, hotel officials pointed out that Asian tourism will become a bigger priority in marketing efforts in 2008.

Of course, tourism drives the Southern Nevada travel and gaming economy. Last year it totaled about $40 billion.

State tourism officials now say that the Asian travel market can substantially increase those numbers.

"China is a very important market for Las Vegas and the state of Nevada," said Karen Chen, who works in the Nevada tourism Beijing office. She was born in China and says the one place in America every Chinese citizen wants to visit is Las Vegas.

Already, 700,000 Chinese by the end of 2007 will have traveled the United States — almost all of them came through Las Vegas. Many of them are big gamblers and shoppers.

"They spend money. They have long itineraries because of the distance and time involved due to travel," said Tim Maland, Nevada Commission on Tourism director.

"I think that can be very beneficial in dollar volume, not necessarily volume of people per say," added Terry Lanni, chairman and CEO of MGM Mirage.

Casino executives say each tourist from Asia, specifically China, spends more money per person than any other group of tourists in Las Vegas.

Chen says the tourism ministry in China anticipates huge gains for Las Vegas as the Chinese explore the United States.

"Next year, they think the number will be double," said Chen.

A new agreement between the United States and China allows tour companies to bring groups of people into the United States. With 34 million Chinese citizens traveling last year and only one percent coming to the U.S., the agreement is meant to tap more of those dollars, and Karen Chen says Las Vegas stands to benefit.