Rock stars aren’t a bad way to get your audience’s attention.
At the 2013 Governor’s Conference on Tourism opening session Tuesday, organizers added a little rock star chic by asking The Killers’ manager, Robert Reynolds, to represent the homegrown Las Vegas band onstage.
When Reynolds stepped up to the podium inside a Red Rock Resort ballroom, the roughly 200-member audience clapped a bit stronger, and many smiled a bit wider.
The conference, a mix of educational and informational sessions geared toward members of the tourism industry, is at Red Rock Resort through Thursday.
After Reynolds spoke, Nevada Tourism and Cultural Affairs Director Claudia Vecchio showed the audience two ads featuring The Killers’ cover of “Don’t Fence Me In,” a song that has become the core of the Nevada Tourism Commission’s marketing campaigns.
The spots feature people enjoying the outdoor activities Nevada has to offer, including zip lines, hot air balloons and skiing.
“This is not your father’s Oldsmobile,” Vecchio said.
Recently, the Tourism Commission lowered its target age group to 25- to 40-year-olds for marketing purposes. The organization previously aimed for a slightly older demographic.
As for The Killers’ involvement, Reynolds said: “On tour, they often speak about the benefits of Las Vegas and growing up here. They’re very proud to be from Las Vegas.”
The band’s lyrics mention Las Vegas street names and places, and albums have been titled “Sam’s Town” and “Battle Born.”
Reynolds said he has heard that fans seek out those places mentioned when visiting Las Vegas.
“Anecdotally, we know a lot of fans have been to Sam’s Town,” he said. “But I couldn’t say the extent of tourism that occurs because The Killers mention Las Vegas. We hope it’s a lot.”
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman also was among the opening day speakers.
“As you know, the biggest brand in the entire world has been and hopefully will remain Las Vegas,” she said.
Through November, McCarran International Airport has welcomed 191 international flights per week.
“That does nothing but spawn travel around the state,” Goodman said.
Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, also spoke, noting his agency’s goal of increasing Las Vegas’ international market share to 30 percent in eight years. As of now, international visitors represent 17 percent of the city’s guests.
“That’s really where the growth is,” he said.
People from Britain, Canada and Mexico make up 70 percent of Las Vegas’ international visitors.
“As we look forward, that international side is going to be critical,” Ralenkotter said.
Attendees also listened to a panel composed of Ralenkotter, tourism commissioner and former Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt-Bono, and Eric Bello, vice president of sales for Sands Corp. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki was the moderator.
Transportation was a key topic, with Ralenkotter saying the U.S. hasn’t taken steps to improve transportation infrastructure. The problem, he said, primarily has been who will take the lead on the issue.
Ralenkotter recently attended the Connecting America through Travel conference at which transportation infrastructure was discussed on a national level.
The travel leader said he believes any transportation project should be a public-private partnership that includes multiple modes of transport.
“I believe the opportunity is there for Nevada to take that lead,” Ralenkotter said.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, though, can’t help fund a transportation project because it has its own $2.5 billion project to focus on — the Las Vegas Global Business District. But that doesn’t mean Ralenkotter won’t continue to push the conversation.
Hunt-Bono mentioned that Southern Nevada could become a center for health and wellness tourism because of the high number of upscale hotel rooms and spas.
Hotels could dedicate floors to health and wellness, she said, or someone could develop a permanent campus dedicated to health and wellness.
For its part, the convention authority has taken inventory of what the city already has in health and wellness offerings to help determine what is needed and let people know what exists in Southern Nevada.
The authority found there already is a base of medical tourism, with several medical professionals holding conferences here.
“It’s a market that continues to grow,” Ralenkotter said.