RENO, Nev. – A panel of top hotel executives and gaming experts will address the changing hospitality industry and their strategic plans for 2011 at the Nevada Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Lt. Gov. Brian K. Krolicki announced today.

“This has been a popular segment of the conference in years past because it gives delegates an insider’s look at how the world’s most competitive gaming operations are dealing with the economy,” Krolicki, Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) chair, said. “Nevada is a gold mine of expertise in the gaming and hotel world, and to have these great minds together on one stage to share their knowledge speaks to the value this conference has to the industry.”

The panel consists of John Farahi, co-chairman and CEO of Monarch Casino Resort, Inc.; Jonathan Halkyard, senior vice president and CFO of Caesars Entertainment Corporation; Bill Hughes, director of marketing operations of the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino; and Ryan Sheltra, general manager of the Bonanza Casino.

Panelists will discuss how their properties have diversified over the years to meet the changing needs and desires of visitors, as well as their plans for 2011.

“Nevada leads the world in hospitality, and this panel represents the top minds in the industry,” NCOT Interim Director Larry Friedman said. “It is well-rounded with executives from international corporations and successful family-owned resorts, from northern and southern Nevada.”

The conference, produced by NCOT, opens on Tuesday, Dec. 7, with the quarterly tourism commission meeting, followed by the first General Session at 1 p.m. The General Session will address the economic outlook for Nevada’s target markets. It will look at the factors that travelers must weigh when deciding to travel and how those factors affect decision-making.

Two afternoon sessions follow the General Session, both aimed at learning how to better communicate with travelers and set one’s destination apart from the rest. Dr. Bill Siegel, CEO of Longwoods International, will present “Rules of Engagement,” a session on how to connect with visitors on an emotional level and increase business through customer interaction. A panel of marketing executives from throughout Nevada will discuss the tools to communicate with travelers. Jennifer Cunningham of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, Cathy Tull of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and NCOT’s JoLyn Laney will share how they target visitors and shift their communications based on needs of the markets.

The General Session on Wednesday, Dec. 8, will start with two representatives from Google to discuss “new media” and how to allocate advertising dollars to the appropriate media channels to reach visitors where they consume information. This session will be immediately followed by a presentation on the status of international travel by the U.S. Travel Association.

Afternoon sessions include an update on what’s ahead for the air-travel industry; measuring return on investment in advertising; and the use of members-only sales websites.

Wednesday’s lunch program will include a special presentation to former Sen. Richard Bryan, who was governor when the Nevada Commission on Tourism was created. Bryan and the 1983 Nevada Legislature designated a fraction of the state room tax to be spent on tourism promotion, thus creating the tourism agency and its self-perpetuating budget to increase travel to the state.

“Senator Bryan understood the importance of tourism to our state, and had the foresight to construct a way for a promotional agency to fund itself,” Krolicki said. “The tourism industry has strengthened and improved itself, largely thanks to leaders within the industry sharing their knowledge for the betterment of the whole state. This entire conference is a celebration of the endurance and ingenuity of its leaders.”

The conference will be held at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno. Registration is available online at http://governorsconference.org and onsite. Visit the website for a full agenda and information on keynote speakers.