Las Vegas tourism officials plan to reveal an outline this week of their strategy to attract foreign visitors who have shied away from the United States since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Officials are to present the vision Tuesday to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board, which is aiming to boost the share of visitors who come from other countries to 15 percent, up from the current 13 percent, by 2010. The destination's percentage of visitors from abroad have fallen from 18 percent before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, buffeted by tougher visa restrictions, wariness of travel and customs checks.
Tourism officials are also targeting the United Kingdom as the third largest source of foreign visitors, following No. 1 Canada and No. 2 Mexico.
Las Vegas' "What Happens Here, Stays Here" message is being tailored to "British humor" for the U.K. market and is in focus group testing now in London, said Rob Dondero, executive vice president of R&R Partners, the firm that created the campaign.
Spanish-language versions of the "What Happens Here, Stays Here" television ads began running domestically and in Mexico in May. Tourism officials said the message promoting Las Vegas as a place of "adult freedom," where you can do things you cannot or would not do at home, has resonated well with Mexican focus groups.
The international push comes at a time when the authority believes it needs to raise the annual number of visitors to 43 million by the end of the decade, a 10 percent increase from 2006, when a record 38.9 million came. The increase is believed to be crucial to maintain the city's historically high occupancy rates — an average 89.7 percent over the last three years — as a building boom is expected to raise hotel room inventory by 30 percent to 170,000.
"We're going to be adding 35,000, 36,000 rooms," said authority chief executive Rossi Ralenkotter. "It's the largest increase in rooms in this marketplace over a five-year period in our history. Looking at that, we know we'll have the inventory and the interest to drive more visitation.
"Not only do we have this group of rooms coming online, but there are also proposals for more rooms into the future. So by 2015, we could easily have 200,000 rooms in Las Vegas."
By 2010, meeting space is also expected to balloon by 3.5 million square feet (330,000 sq. meters) from nearly 10 million (930,000 sq. meters) currently, prompting the authority to start a print-ad campaign called that aims to show off Las Vegas as a futuristic place to hold conventions and meetings. The ads began running in May and are targeted at publications like the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes.
The authority plans to stick closely to its popular "adult freedom" message over the next several years, however, with plans to launch a TV ad campaign in December with the tag line "Your Vegas Is Showing." The ads feature people who struggle to explain things they did in Las Vegas when they return home to a normal setting.