North Las Vegas mayor questions tourism group's appropriations

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee declared his true intentions on Tuesday.

In an otherwise routine meeting of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors, Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs Director Claudia Vecchio was present to talk about the Nevada Commission on Tourism.

But Lee, as a member of the LVCVA board, took issue with how the tourism commission is funded and where its money goes.

The commission operates on a roughly $18 million budget mandated from the Legislature, money that comes from a tiny portion of statewide hotel and motel room taxes. About 90 percent of that tax revenue comes from Clark County businesses, but very little of that money actually stays in Clark County. Most of it goes to fund tourism efforts in Northern Nevada’s rural communities.

“This is just a convention authority financial aid package,” Lee said.

For his part, Lee sees the money as an opportunity for North Las Vegas to get out of its financial hole. In the meeting, he said he plans to do something about the way the money is earmarked for the tourism commission.

Boulder City Mayor Pro Tem and board member Cam Walker, noted that the $1.4 million in rural grant money given out by the commission on tourism each year mostly cancels out any room tax contribution coming from those rural areas.

Board member Chuck Bowling, a former state tourism commissioner, defended the organization, saying that promotion of the lesser-known Nevada locales only helps Las Vegas.

“It is rare that somebody’s going to come to the state and not come to Las Vegas,” he said.

Bowling then encouraged his colleagues to better engage the commission on tourism to get more bang for their buck. Board member Greg Lee, chairman and CEO of the Eureka Resort in Mesquite, said he hasn’t taken advantage of the commission but that he will in the future.

Other than that, it was business as usual Tuesday for the board of directors.

The group approved $1.15 million in expenses for a variety of sponsorships, memberships and hosting opportunities. Included in the expenses was $186,650 to participate in the U.S. Travel Association’s annual trade show, IPW, to be held April 5-9 in Chicago. The convention authority is sponsoring the press room and media lounge at the 2014 event, and hosting a dinner for key tour operators, travel buyers and media.

The board also approved a $205,000 expense to participate in the Society of Independent Show Organizers CEO Summit to be held in Las Vegas March 30-April 2. Last year a slew of the authority’s clients attended the event, including Emerald Expositions, Reed Exhibitions, Questex Media Group and ConvExx. Those clients produce many of the big name trade shows such as SHOT Show, MAGIC, World of Concrete, National Hardware Show and SEMA.

Other expenses were $150,000 to host the Destination Marketing Association International’s 100th Annual Convention from July 21-23 at Aria; $400,000 to host the 19th Annual Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit from Aug. 24-27; $100,000 to sponsor the 2014 Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce Customer Service Excellence Program; and $103,600 to renew an annual membership with the U.S. Travel Association, of which the convention authority has been a member since 1982. The organization represents the industry at Capitol Hill, and membership allows participation in the annual IPW trade show.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.


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