Adventure tourism — anything that involves exploration, travel or a certain degree of risk — is a fast-growing market. According to a 2018 report from Allied Market Research, the global adventure tourism market was valued at $445 trillion in 2016 and was projected to reach $1.3 quadrillion in four years.
That’s good news for Bob Fahnestock and Randy Saenz, co-owners of Gunship Helicopters in Sandy Valley. The unique attraction lets guests shoot fully automatic machine guns while flying in a helicopter.
“Our focus is offering these items not offered anywhere else.” Fahnestock said.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get the idea to build this company?
Fahnestock: I always thought it’d be an interesting thing to do here in Vegas. It was a long, hard road — one of the most difficult things we ever encountered. It’s something that’s unique to Vegas and unique to Gunship. It took at least a couple years to get the aircraft, acquire the property, acquiring the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) permits for the weapons.
What have you learned as business owners so far?
Fahnestock: It’s been a long lesson in learning the marketing aspect of Vegas, because there’s so many people competing for the same dollar. Once you can establish your brand and get unique packages out there, people are eager to do this type of activity. Not everyone understood what Vegas has going for it with these unique attractions. If you can do this stuff and have the funding and do it safely, you can come to Vegas and you can do it.
Who uses the facility?
Fahnestock: We have a lot of repeat customers in Vegas. They’ve shot at gun ranges. They skydive. We’re the only ones I know of that have a mounted machine gun and gun range. At first it was just really such a unique business.
Why are people attracted to Gunship Helicopters?
Fahnestock: For a lot of people, it’s their first time ever flying in a helicopter, potentially their first time flying with the doors off, which is an experience itself. There’s lots of people who have never shot a machine gun. There’s 10 bucket list items you can cross off there. A lot of what drives it is video games. It’s an experience they only lived in the virtual world, not reality. It’s different pushing buttons from real life.
Why launch this company in Vegas?
Fahnestock: It’s totally pro-business. Even Boulder City. I have to give my hats off to them for helping us get this up and running.
Saenz: The state line of California is four miles from us. I like to say that everything we do is a felony right past there.