D E S TIN A TIO N S
‘Social connections are the soul of travel.’ — Philip Wolf, PhoCus Wright
Leadership forum proves a show of confidence
By Damon Hodge
More than 100 indus- try leaders gathered at Travel Weekly’s an- nual Las Vegas Lead- ership Forum, held
in the 10-month-old Cosmopolitan Hotel, to hear from a mayor, a
technology guru, an industry lobbyist, company presidents and the
people who market Las Vegas to
For a destination still suffering from
overcapacity and suppressed levels of revenue per available room, the mood among
the hoteliers, tour operators, travel agents,
airline executives and local tourism officials
was nonetheless generally upbeat, and the
opening speaker explained why.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman flatly stated, “We are in recovery.” She pointed
to a 4% increase in tourism and the resulting 85% occupancy levels. More than 8,000
jobs were added as a result of the recovery,
She also touted the new Mob Museum,
where her husband (and predecessor), Oscar, recently taped an episode of “CSI.” He
currently works for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and recently
opened a restaurant.
Travel Weekly’s Las Vegas Leadership Forum was held this year at the Cosmopolitan.
ing for the LVCVA, said recent research
commissioned by the authority suggested
that the destination has two distinct groups
of visitors, the “Core” and the “Persuades.”
The Core are Vegas zealots. They come
regularly and feel comfortable there.
The Persuades want to come but are
somewhat intimidated. They want to escape but are more concerned about the
economy and are looking for value. There’s
a lot of opportunity among the group, Tull
She also showed off the LVCVA’s new ad
Vegas a good bet
During a panel discussion moderated
by Travel Weekly Editor in Chief
Arnie Weissmann, wholesalers expressed confidence in
the strength of Las Vegas’
president and chief
marketing officer of
MLT Vacations, said
the city remains a top
destination for business
meetings and conventions.
“The corporate environment is strong, and business
and convention travel is strong
[nationally],” said Pomerantz,
whose company operates the Delta Vacations, United Vacations, Worry-Free Vacations, Air France Holidays and Alitalia Vacations brands.
Ray Snisky, executive vice president of
Mark Travel Corp., which includes the
brands Funjet, Southwest Vacations, Fabu-
go.com and Spirit Vacations, among others,
agreed: “The U.S. traveler can’t stay conser-
vative or pent up too long.”
Snisky said the challenge for local travel
industry professionals is to shed Vegas’ im-
age as a discount destination.
“Las Vegas doesn’t need that [discount-
ing] to the same degree that it did during
the recession,” he said. “Spending was a big-
ger issue than occupancy [during the reces-
sion]. To that end, properties have invested
significantly in their products in order to
provide added value.”
Since the recession began in late 2007,
properties have completed or announced
hundreds of millions in renovations, in-
cluding the Tropicana ($165 million), the
Golden Nugget ($150 million), Treasure Is-
land ($92 million), the Plaza ($35 million),
El Cortez ($20 million) and the Golden
Gate ($12 million).
Earlier this year, Caesars Entertainment
acquired a $400 million loan to
finish its $850 million Octavius Tower and to build a
$550 million mixed-use
complex anchored by
what’s billed as the
world’s largest observation wheel.
Refreshed inventory notwithstanding,
Christopher Ames, director of product
sales for US Airways Vacations, said travel
agents can play a key role in recalibrating
mindsets about the city.
“Some agents may not sell as much of Vegas because it offers lower commissions than
the international destinations,” Ames said.
“Teach the agents that they can do a
higher volume of Vegas than those foreign
destinations, and they can offer much bet-
ter customer service. You never know what a
customer is going to say after a foreign trip.
I never have those worries about Vegas.”
Added Snisky: “Vegas has good products
with good price points. The key is to add
value. You never want a customer finding
value [in a destination] without you.”
See FORUM on Page 52
t PhoCus Wright’s founder and
Chairman, Philip Wolf.
campaign, which dovetails with the “What
happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” theme.
It focuses on visitors who don’t know the
“code” and “overshare” their Vegas experiences on social media (and are consequently shunned by others).
‘Core’ vs. ‘Persuades’
Cathy Tull, who is in charge of market-
Travel Weekly Editor in Chief Arnie Weissmann and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.