Las Vegas tourism leads national turnaround

May 14, 2002 9:00 AM

Airline travel remains down nationwide in the aftermath of 9/11, but not in Las Vegas.

"This city has a fascination about it and that makes Vegas easier to recover from the disaster of last September," said Bill LaMacchia of Mark Travel Corp., who was here as the keynote speaker for the National Tourism Week luncheon held last Friday.

LaMacchia was also presented the key to the city by Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, an honor the Wisconsin businessman called "a wonderful surprise."

"I love this town and have been doing business here for 30 years," LaMacchia said. "This community has been so aggressive in bringing people here. The travel industry is so competitive now, but the biggest problem is getting businesses to fly as often as they used to. Las Vegas has succeeded where everyone else is failing."

LaMacchia’s comments came on the same day that a Forbes Magazine survey showed that Las Vegas was third most desirable city to work and reside in, up from 14th nationally last year.

"We have an amazing partnership with the city," he said. "The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the hotels of Las Vegas have been extremely supportive."

The Mark Travel Corp., in its 28th year of operation out of Milwaukee, began selling group-inclusive tours to Las Vegas combined with United Airlines in the early 1970s.

"We bring over one million people to Las Vegas each year," LaMacchia said. "Funjet is the biggest provider, followed by Southwest Airlines vacations. We also have a bus company in Vegas (Showtime Tours) that provides airport transfers. Our future plans is for all these packages to come under one umbrella deal."

LaMacchia said this future umbrella plan would happen in Las Vegas before anywhere else.

"Our site on the Internet is in its final stages," he said. "We are selling bus tours and shows for now. By the end of June we should also feature wedding packages with our Showtime Tour."

LaMacchia indicated that Vegas would be swarming with Wisconsin fans through his company when the Badgers face UNLV in the season opening college football game Aug. 31 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

"We were last here in 1996," he said. "Right now we expect 8,000 Badgers fans to make the trip from Wisconsin. Las Vegas is our favorite destination site and we look forward to providing the best packages for our customers for years to come."