Gov. Steve Sisolak never attended the state-sponsored Governor’s Global Tourism Summit before Wednesday.
But he gladly took the role of host as he kicked off the second day of the three-day downtown Las Vegas event that has brought the tourism industry together to discuss issues and strategies to draw more visitors to the Silver State.
“Oftentimes people, when they come, they view Las Vegas as just that four or five miles on the Strip of neon,” Sisolak said after addressing nearly 300 people attending the event at the Plaza. “It’s much more than that. There are so many more things to offer.”
While the conference includes participants from rural entities from across the state, it also features Las Vegas tourism components, including a panel discussion Thursday on the city’s new role as the “Sports Capital of the World.” Panelists will include representatives of the Raiders, the Golden Knights, UNLV and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Participants began gathering Tuesday for pre-summit events, including a foodie tour, an off-road dune buggy event and a meet-and-greet reception.
Speakers at the summit will include Cathy Hackl, an expert on augmented reality and virtual reality; Andy Schuon, a media and entertainment executive; and Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
Sisolak is tuned into the various visitation development strategies established by the Nevada Commission on Tourism and the LVCVA. This week’s conference includes a large international delegation that can spread Nevada’s message globally.
Sisolak knows visitation from foreign countries is important because those travelers spend more time — and more money — on their trips. He also has an understanding of why millennial travelers are important to the state.
“This millennial generation, my daughters, for example, are more interested in experiences,” he said. “They don’t want to accumulate things. They want to accumulate memories. And memories are made in Nevada, and that’s the idea we’re trying to get across that you can have a great memory when you’re here.”
Joining Sisolak onstage for the kickoff keynote were Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who touted downtown Las Vegas’ development in addition to the city and state; LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill, who noted that the NFL draft would be staged in Las Vegas in April and that the NFL team he follows, the Cincinnati Bengals, could have a prominent role because its miserable 0-10 record that may give it a high draft pick; and Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel, whose resort has paced a major developmental transition downtown.
While Hill applauded Sisolak’s leadership role in developing Southern Nevada’s next big tourism magnet — the 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium — before he became governor, Sisolak acknowledged the state’s natural beauty is drawing new visitors.
“Nevada has so much to offer when you get into the rural area,” Sisolak said. “We have some of the best petroglyphs in the world for those who are interested in the petroglyph area. We’ve got the rock climbing. We’ve got the deserts. We’ve got the Valley of Fire.
“When you drive to Northern Nevada and drive through some of the rurals and see the beauty and the magnificence of those mountains and that desert … it’s just something to behold,” he said. “You’ve got to experience it to understand it. Once people experience it for the first time, you get hooked on it pretty quick.”