State Celebrates Decade of Success
Carson City, Nev. (July 2, 2014) – Today the Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) celebrates the 10th anniversary of its license to open a Foreign Official Tourism Department Residential Representative Office in China. Nevada was the first state to be granted such a license by the National Tourism Administration of the People’s Republic of China, underscoring the state’s vision for the potential of the Chinese tourism market.
Once reserved for only the wealthy, international travel among the Chinese middle and upper classes has grown at an astonishing rate. Chinese tourists made approximately 1.8 million arrivals to the U.S. in 2013 and are on pace to triple that number by 2020. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, China ranks seventh in number of visitors to the U.S. and sixth in amount of money spent while they’re here, averaging $6,000 per person, per trip¹.
Since 2006, when visitation statistics on Chinese travelers began, Nevada has seen a 300 percent increase of Chinese visitors to the state. In 2006, Las Vegas recorded 87,000 visitors from China. By 2012, the most recent complete year of data, that number had grown to 263,000. The number continues to grow, posting a 39 percent increase from 2011 to 2012.
“Thanks to the forward-thinking of our leaders 10 years ago, Nevada was able to explore a market that had been mostly off-limits to tourism marketing,” Lt. Gov. Brian K. Krolicki said. “In 2004, we established friendship agreements with leaders in the Chinese government and partnerships with U.S. embassies and commercial services offices in key Chinese cities as well as in Macau and Hong Kong. These relationships have been incredibly important to Nevada and its ability to continue to grow tourism and economic development opportunities.”
To commemorate the milestone, Krolicki will lead a delegation from the Nevada tourism industry to Beijing, Chengdu, and Guangzhou July 5-12, 2014. There, the group will meet with government and tourism industry leaders and reaffirm Nevada’s commitment to China. Highlights of the trip include commemorative re-signings of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with provincial and state tourism departments and business meetings with airlines, tour operators and travel agents to continue to promote Nevada as a compelling business and leisure destination for this evolving market.
Nevada’s effort to enter China started in the late 1990s, when then-Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt-Bono was elected to her office and shared her vision for China with then-Gov. Kenny Guinn. She viewed Chinese tourism as an economic resource for the state, and shaped her direction by leading economic development and tourism trade missions to China over the next several years.
“People told me we were ahead of our time because Chinese travelers were having a hard time even getting visas to visit the U.S.,” Hunt-Bono said. “But, when I looked at the potential, the country’s population and its burgeoning economy, I knew we needed to be there and we needed be the first.”
Hunt-Bono’s vision spurred then-NCOT Director Bruce Bommarito to research the market and develop a plan, which started with establishing relationships with government officials in China.
Nevada’s efforts to establish a China office were assisted by its chief representative in China, Karen Chen. Chen, an airline and travel agency veteran, made the introductions essential for connecting Nevada and Chinese government officials.
“The fact that we’ve been able to, over the years, establish and maintain very strong government relations has opened doors to us that would never have been opened without those relationships,” Bommarito said. “There is no question that regional destinations – even Las Vegas – would not have gained a foothold in China without the foundation laid by the Nevada Commission on Tourism.”
Bommarito, who also previously worked as executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association and as a consultant on Chinese tourism, is now vice president of international marketing for Caesars Entertainment. In his new role, he continues to be laser-focused on China and understands its unique position within all international markets. “The relationship with China is absolutely critical to the future of our company,” he said.
“Nevada applauds the efforts of its elected officials, the U.S. Travel Association and other policy advocates, for making outbound travel from China easier,” Claudia Vecchio, director, Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, said. “Through reducing visa processing restrictions and reducing wait times, the ability to, and interest in, travel from China to the U.S. and primarily, Nevada, has significantly increased.”
“This market is expected to grow exponentially,” Krolicki said. “When you’re dealing with a country with 1.4 billion people and growing by 32 million a year, the potential is incredibly exciting. Nevada is dedicated to working closely with our friends and colleagues in China to enhance mutually beneficial business-building opportunities.”
Since opening its first office in Beijing, the Nevada Commission on Tourism also has opened offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong. The state’s marketing efforts now include ongoing outreach to travel professionals through appearances at major trade shows, at customized educational sessions and one-on-one meetings with potential partners. Efforts also include robust consumer and trade media relations and a growing social media outreach.
During the past decade, Nevada has hosted a number of travel professional familiarization trips, beginning in 2004 with the first-ever familiarization tour of Chinese tourism industry professionals to the U.S. Also in 2004, NCOT organized the first U.S. tourism delegation to attend the China International Travel Mart (CITM) in China, the largest tourism trade show in Asia. Two years later, in 2006, NCOT organized the first group of Chinese tourism professionals to attend IPW, the largest tourism trade show for international buyers in the United States.
In 2011, Nevada was selected as the site for the Miss Chinese Cosmos pageant, the first time it was held in the United States.
¹ Sources: U.S. State Department, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau, Nevada Division of Tourism.