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Nevada tourism leaders’ trip part of effort Trump wants to eliminate

Updated June 21, 2017 - 6:12 pm

Representatives of the Nevada Commission on Tourism plan to join a trade mission to India in September that’s part of a program President Trump wants to eliminate.

Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, who chairs the commission, told the board Wednesday that he would be participating in a Brand USA mission Sept. 10-15 to Mumbai, Chennai and New Delhi.

Hutchison views India as a market to generate tourism to Nevada the same way the state viewed China in the early 2000s and was an early entrant to that market.

Hutchison has already made a visit to that country and now wants to establish contacts that would drive visitors to Nevada. But he’s concerned about Trump’s planned elimination of Brand USA in the budget submitted to Congress last month.

Trump wants to divert revenue generated for Brand USA to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Brand USA is funded in part by fees collected from in-bound foreign tourists as part of a visa waiver program. It grew out of the bipartisan Travel Promotion Act to provide marketing dollars to promote destinations within the United States.

Locally, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has been a vocal advocate for Brand USA.

After Wednesday’s commission meeting, Hutchison said he’ll look to Nevada’s congressional delegation to fight to preserve the program.

“I hope our congressional delegation can help President Trump see the importance of these tourism-related activities, particularly Brand USA,” Hutchison said.

“I’ve been involved with Brand USA internationally,” he said. “They do such great work to showcase the United States and have been such strong partners for Nevada and TravelNevada (the state’s branded tourism campaign) and it would be a shame to see that partnership in any way weakened.”

Hutchison noted it’s Congress — not Trump — who makes the final decisions on the budget so he’s confident that Nevada lawmakers will help preserve the program.

Representatives of other tourism-dependent states and a number of travel-related associations have called for preserving Brand USA.

Earlier in the day, the commission did its own contribution to the tourism economy by unanimously approving nearly a million dollars in rural marketing grants, including $100,700 to Las Vegas-area events and promotions.

The state commission awards the grants to assist small organizations produce marketing materials and develop websites to attract visitors to the state.

Most of the grants are awarded for rural causes, divided into six geographic territories across the state.

Commission officials received 192 grant requests totaling $1.7 million and made 159 awards.

In other business, the commission received an update on this year’s Governor’s Global Tourism Summit Dec. 4-5 at the Flamingo in Las Vegas and received a report on plans to commission an official painted portrait of Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The tourism summit will have the theme of “Nevada Welcomes the World” and will include speakers and panels addressing international travel to the state.

The portrait for Sandoval is being handled by the commission as the overseer of the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. State lawmakers unanimously approved a bill to designate $25,000 for the Sandoval portrait, which will hang in the Capitol in Carson City.

A request for proposals will be issued next month for the portrait.

The commission also is expected to receive a report on how Nevada’s new recreational marijuana industry could affect tourism. Advocates have said recreational marijuana sales could boost attracting a younger demographic to the state while critics say pot sales could have a detrimental effect on the convention industry.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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