Las Vegas is Becoming More Accessible

With a little less than 150,000 hotel rooms and 42.9 million visitors last year, this giant holiday and MICE destination in the middle of the US has been slowly increasing it's popularity among the Indian traveller. Rafael Villanueva, Senior Director, International Sales, Las Vegas Convention and Visitor's Authority shared his thoughts with BW Hotelier.

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IT’S BEEN called an adult Disneyland, but Las Vegas seems to have something for everyone, all at a huge grand scale. At least, that is what Rafael Villanueva, Senior Director, International Sales of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority explained when BW Hotelier caught up with him on a recent visit to India.

“Last year was a record year for Las Vegas, we had 42.9 million visitors. 88 percent of that comes for the entertainment side of Las Vegas. The number of rooms available to house the visitors in the city is a tad less than 150,000—only because the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority purchased the Riviera, a very old hotel in Las Vegas and tore it down because we needed the parking,” he said with nonchalance.

The company he represents has been working in India over the last five years and developing a base here, “We are trying to get the right infrastructure here in India. We are getting the right information to the operators, the right program development, whether it's going to be an FIT, a leisure group, or a MICE company. Now, we are hoping to make investment in the Indian market,” Villanueva added.

One of the biggest challenges of the Las Vegas market for India is accessibility. It is not a gateway destination, he explained, though it does have one of the US’s largest airports, which helps since Las Vegas is the number one trade show city in North America holding 22,000 meetings and events a year, more in a week than many cities host in an entire year, because of the nature of the hotels and all the products on offer, he said.

“The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority also owns one of the largest convention centres in the US, but we need more space. It is also a city which is open all the time. People can do business in the daytime and go and have fun at night,” he added.

“For the Indian market, with the increase of flights, the accessibility to Las Vegas is getting better. We have flights from every major city in the US and in some places like Los Angeles, we have a flight every hour, on the hour,” he said.

Villanueva observed that for tour operators taking outbound tourists to the US, Las Vegas is a value proposition for the package groups. With moderate hotel costs and fantastic product quality, Las Vegas is very well positioned.

“Right now current strategy is working on the M and I part of MICE. The incentive side is what makes the value proposition of Las Vegas work so well. You hang it as an opportunity to incentivise a team, a company, you offer the restaurant, the shows, at a reasonable price point for the company. We are expanding our convention centre and there will be a lot of opportunities to explore that in the future as far as the Indian market is concerned.,” he added.

As the market gets more accessible for the Indian market, it will grow, though India is still a long way to making a dent in the visitor numbers to the city. “We don't have the 2016 numbers, though the domestic market for Las Vegas is the largest slice of the pie at 84 percent. The 16 percent of international visitors, are topped by Canada, followed by Mexico and the UK. After that comes Australia, which is the only one of our top five markets without a direct flight,” he concluded.


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