Press Room

Nevada Tourism Chair Defends China Mission, Ad Campaign

Jan 02, 2009

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A 10-day tourism-building mission that Lt. Gov. Brian K. Krolicki led to China last June involved morning-until-night meetings with influential Chinese officials and journalists, Krolicki said Friday, refuting criticism by Gov. Jim Gibbons.

“The governor has unfortunately decided to challenge the work ethic that was displayed during Nevada’s annual sales mission to China, and we need to set the record straight,” Krolicki, chair of the Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT), said. “We went to China to work, not play, and work is exactly what we did during the entire trip. China’s 1.3 billion people are a major tourism market for Nevada and it is essential that we go there aggressively and get their business.”

Krolicki also defended NCOT’s advertising and marketing program, which focuses largely on California and other western states. A news release from Gibbons’ office Friday evening said that Nevada needs to turn its attention to “backyard” tourism markets such as California during the worldwide recession.

“Last spring, NCOT shifted most of our advertising dollars to major West Coast ‘feeder’ markets in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland and Denver,” Krolicki said.  “We still kept some of our advertising on national television.”

In November, NCOT began running a special ad campaign promoting Lake Tahoe skiing on radio and television in Los Angeles and Dallas that will continue through January. Besides advertising on the Travel Channel, CNN, ESPN, Fox, HGTV and others, NCOT also advertises on the Internet and in travel magazines that cater to the West.

“Our $4.7 million ad campaign investment last fiscal year generated more than $92 million in local and state tax revenue for Nevada,” Krolicki said.

The tourism-building mission to China included a 15-member delegation of Nevada hoteliers and other tourism and business leaders. Each paid their own way, and each participating company was assessed a fee that paid Krolicki’s expenses in exchange for obtaining access to Chinese tour operators and other officials in meetings that NCOT had arranged. NCOT, which is funded entirely by the room tax that visitors pay, did not foot any bills for Krolicki’s travel costs in China.

Karen Chen, NCOT’s chief representative in China, based in Beijing, arranged the itinerary for the entire group and accompanied Krolicki on all of the business meetings set up for him with high-ranking Chinese and U.S. officials. Krolicki also conducted two news conferences and individual interviews about Nevada with dozens of Chinese journalists

“I was with Brian Krolicki every day,” Chen said. “He had a lot of meetings to do and he absolutely attended all the meetings and interviews we set up for him from morning until night. His schedule was actually busier than most of those in the delegation because he had a number of separate smaller meetings.”

Chen said there was hardly time during the busy schedule to rest, let alone go sightseeing.

The delegation conducted business in Hong Kong, Macau, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing, meeting with tourism industry officials and journalists all along the way. They conducted sales meetings, educational seminars and workshops about Nevada’s attractions for more than 200 tour operators, and news conferences and interviews with more than 70 Chinese journalists.

Delegates included international leisure sales officials from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, Bellagio resort-casino, Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, Harrah’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, and two sightseeing airlines whose Grand Canyon flights are highly popular with Chinese visitors: Scenic Grand Canyon Airlines and Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters. Also on the trip were three Las Vegas businessmen: a Chinese tour operator, the chairman of the Asian Chamber of Commerce and a steel company official seeking business with China. Krolicki also chairs the Nevada Commission on Economic Development and conducted business on its behalf as well.

The delegates arrived in Hong Kong June 10 and 11; Krolicki got there June 12 and headed to the International Travel Exhibition, a large trade show that attracts tourism industry people from all over the world. Later in the day and into the evening, Krolicki met with officials of a Chinese company that wants to build a large trade and meeting facility in Las Vegas called China Mart that would attract Chinese business meetings and conventions.

On June 13, Krolicki and two of the Las Vegas businessmen met with Hong Kong economic development and tourism officials, including the commissioner for tourism, and later in the day discussed visa policies with U.S. consulate officials. NCOT has been working for several years with U.S. officials to ease visa restrictions, cut red tape and enable more Chinese to visit the United States.

Krolicki attended many tourism meetings that did not include the entire delegation.

“The delegates wanted to do their job meeting with tour operators,” Chen said. “The lieutenant governor met with government officials. You do not have a lieutenant governor sit all day in a trade show booth where the hotel and airline people are working. It is more important for the lieutenant governor to meet with the government officials who can help with travel to Nevada, and this is exactly what we did.”

On June 14, the delegation traveled to Macau, a major global gaming destination with considerable investment by key Nevada corporations, and met with the influential American Chamber of Commerce. The next day, they traveled to Hangzhou, where on June 16 Krolicki discussed proposed new air service to Las Vegas and met with two U.S. consulate officials from Shanghai who had traveled to Hangzhou, which is part of their territory, for the meeting. Currently, there are no direct flights from China to Nevada, and most Chinese visitors arrive from other Asian cities or as domestic passengers from U.S. cities.

NCOT was the first U.S. tourism agency to promote leisure group travel from China after the signing of a historic U.S.-China agreement in 2008 that allowed promotion of leisure group travel in nine provinces, including Hangzhou. In 2004, under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, now an NCOT commissioner, NCOT was the first U.S. tourism entity to be awarded a license from the Chinese government allowing advertising to outbound Chinese travelers.

While in Hangzhou, the Nevada hoteliers and other delegates conducted an educational seminar about Nevada and a visa briefing for 60 tour operators and trade show organizers. The delegation left late in the day June 16 for Shanghai.

On June 17, Krolicki held discussions in Shanghai with the U.S. Commercial Service, which helps Americans conduct business in China, while the rest of the delegates held an educational seminar for 60 Chinese tour operators. Krolicki joined them for a news conference with 20 journalists, followed by dinner with U.S. consulate officers and other VIPs.

On June 18, Krolicki and the delegation traveled to Beijing, where on June 19 he discussed Nevada’s tourism interests with Chinese officials including Madam Li, daughter of China’s former President Chairman Li Xiannian and vice chair of the China Friendship Association, which oversees the program in which Nevada has signed eight friendship agreements. The agreements hold no force of law, but express a mutual willingness and desire to work together toward common goals of building tourism business and promoting cultural understanding and appreciation.

Krolicki also met with the powerful former vice mayor of Beijing, Hao Lu, who now leads one of China’s largest political parties, the Youth League, whose former leader is China’s president, Hu Jintao.

On June 20, Krolicki met with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing that has control over issuing travel visas that Chinese must obtain to visit Nevada.

During Krolicki’s meetings in Beijing, the other Nevada delegates conducted an educational seminar for 80 Chinese tour operators and a workshop, then joined Krolicki at a news conference with 30 journalists.

The delegation left China June 21 to return to Nevada.