COMMENTARY: Travel essential for LVCVA board members

As they say at the Mob Museum, there are always two sides to every story. I am writing to comment on travel by those serving on the board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (Jan. 27 Review-Journal).

I was an independent member and secretary-treasurer of that board from 1989-1992. Yes, like every board member before and since, I was encouraged to learn more about the convention and trade business so I could understand and be more effective in policy and financial matters facing the convention authority. That educational process cannot be accomplished by sitting in my office, waiting (hoping) that new business for our resort industry will continue to flourish.

Fortunately, at the time of my service, I had a background in travel and tourism, having been a former hotel executive and a member of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. That was not the typical background of elected officials making up a majority of the convention authority board.

During my tenure on the board, I visited London and Tokyo, two markets that the LVCVA was seeking to develop. I also visited Chicago’s McCormick Place, which at that time was the leading competitor for major shows in Las Vegas. My time in the international locations was spent greeting convention planners who were being courted for their business. In the two days I was at each location, that meant 10-hour days in drafty halls and — in the case of London — it also meant dealing with the winter chill. The flights were long and tedious — certainly far from being a “vacation.”

What I learned on these trips was immeasurable. I saw the kind of approaches and offerings made by our competitors and discussed the priorities of the planners who were intending to book their clients for shows five years hence. In the case of the Chicago trip, I was shocked by the size of their convention center and the modern touches incorporated in their facilities. I realized that if Las Vegas were to stay competitive in the marketplace, our own convention center needed an immediate upgrade.

There would be no way that a board charged with budget approvals and approval of five-year planning would be prepared to address these and many more issues without “familiarization travel.”

As I said, there are two sides to every story. In my view, singling out LVCVA board member and Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore or others for doing their jobs by exercising sound business judgment in positions that hold so much importance to our city is simply wrong and one-sided.

Jeffrey Silver writes from Henderson.

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