Nevada keen on enhanced student exchange and ‘sister cities’, says Lt. Governor

Nevada needs no introduction. With the iconic Las Vegas by its side, its tourism pull remains as strong as ever. However, the state is, now,focussing on amplifying its other products and destinations, that are equally riveting in creating experiences.


The integral theme of some of the all time classics of Hollywood has been the ‘Wild West’, immortalized on the celluloid by giants like John Wayne and, later by, Jimmy Stewart. Las Vegas has long been the entertainment and cultural capital of the USA – thanks to entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and, lately, Celine Dion. There are more hotels in the Las Vegas Boulevard – which is a strip – than in most major cities in the world. Besides experiencing the gaming and night-life capital of the world, one can soak in the authentic cowboy experience in Nevada. It is also the home of the loneliest highway in the country – the Route 50 where you may drive for hours with no other vehicle in sight. Not many know that Nevada hosts some great wineries, too. They have wineries in the south and, some, in the north.

The outcome of all this constant exposure of these amazing products to global audience can be understood by the enormity of the number of footfalls in the state. In the Lt. Governor’s own admission, the state hosted upwards of fifty-eight million tourists last year– which is almost twenty times its actual population! Tourism is critical to Nevada’s economy where close to four hundred thousand jobs come from the tourism industry, we were told. “There are close to three million people in the state of Nevada; our total work force comes out to be somewhere around 1.2 million people. So, tourism supports a third of the total workforce,” said Mark Hutchison. Adding that, though, he could not exactly pin-point how much it translated in terms of every dollar generated, he asserted that “I believe, it comes down to almost thirty-three cents per dollar. It is a major component of our economy. So our major industries are hospitality and tourism –which includes gaming, besides mining and traditional industry like construction. It is who we are; I would not like to brag, but we are pretty good in tourism.”

Lt. Governor – who is, also, the Chairman of the Nevada Commission on Tourism – has a clear cut agenda of increasing international inbound, and he stressed that India was integral to their quest for better footfalls. He attributed his belief to the fact that there were so many Indians who wanted to travel internationally. “There are almost fifty-million passport holders here. It is the fastest growing economy in the industrialized world. Fifty percent of India’s population is under the age of thirty-five and wants to travel. We know that the middle-class is growing exponentially, and more and more Indian travellers are seeking unique experiences,” he reasoned.

He pitched for Indian family travellers telling us that they knew family was very important for Indians. “Nevada is a great family destination. It is one of the safest destinations, and has a lot to offer to different age-groups making it a destination for all. We take the safety and security of our tourists very seriously,” he asserted. He also told us that Nevada had some of the finest shopping and culinary experiences to offer.

Nevada catered to around fifty-three thousand travellers in 2014,he said. He informed us that “although, we do not have details of 2015, we do know that the numbers have grown and that is one of the reasons why we are here.”

During the conversation, he revealed that the entire gamut of legislators, cutting across party lines, and members of the wider tourism fraternity were unequivocally supportive of the foray, and intended to invest substantial sums to boost their presence. He, however, did not divulge details, stating that “I am not really sure of the quantum of investment, but it goes without saying that India will be a priority for us. And, we expect that budget to grow through the years.”

He also seemed enthusiastic about exploring newer areas of bilateral connect. When asked whether he was up for partnering with Indian cities on the concept of ‘sister-cities’, he said that it was an appealing idea which he would explore in the future. Sharing that Nevada was keen on furthering student exchanges, he told us that “we partner UNLD (United Nations Literary Decade) – and cultural exchanges; anything that ties us deeper with India is welcome. We have expanded into China through student exchange; we had a student exchange program with them for years. What we need to do now is to do a better job in absorbing them into the US – our immigration laws are such that some of them might have to go back. So, it is a national level policy issue that we need to develop consensus on.” Nevada has roped in hotel administration and hospitality colleges, and wishes to promote student exchange as a policy of the state of Nevada, beginning with hospitality and, of course, tourism, noted the Lt. Governor. “Our job is to bring as many tourists to Las Vegas as we can,” he concluded.

India being a long-haul destination works to our advantage, says Larry Friedman


Destinations need to keep re-inventing themselves to keep their much-needed vitality intact. A look at some of the best destinations tell us that they have constantly infused newer elements, improved infrastructure and created better products to keep tourists interested. What seems a little tricky with Las Vegas, though, is that it has long been a celebrated destination, globally. How do you improve something which has already attained a cult status? But, Larry Friedman, deputy director of the Division of Tourism, Nevada credited concerted efforts from the hospitality industry, as well as the government in honing the product. “People like Stephen Wynn have played a major role in maintaining the exuberance. The opening of The Mirage and The Excalibur Hotels, and other incredible hotels and casinos have consistently lend to the product of the city,” he said. He said that being true to the idea of entertainment had reaped them enormous dividend. Stating that the idea of entertainment, itself, had evolved, he noted that “the importance of nigh-clubs and night-life has gained traction; we have Lake Tahoe and Reno as important assets. We have also kept up in terms of National Parks with Great Basin National Park, Death Valley, and state parks like the Valley of Fire and Cathedral Gorge.” He further added that they were constantly mustering, not just the urban landscape and the urban product, but also the transition to outer recreation, as well.

Some of the credit to its status as the Numero- Uno destination must also be given to an array of matinee stars – who have through the years, lend incredible visibility and luster to Vegas. Larry concurred to the notion, however, adding that Nevada had been smart and lucky, both. “Not only Las Vegas, but other parts of Nevada have been successful in, both, motion pictures and television shows. The truth is that whether it is motion pictures or television series, and if they want Vegas to be a part of the story line – there is no way to re-create it,” he said. “There is just one Vegas, period. At the same time, there is a Pyramid Lake – which was portrayed as the Red Sea. In another movie, the town of Eli was portrayed as the town of Mexico. So, other places can pretend to be other places, but Las Vegas strip is one and only,” he stressed.

The USA has always been on the wish-list of the discerning Indian traveller, because of its ‘aspirational’ status. But, being a long-haul destination has been a major deterrent for many,simply because it requires larger spending and more travel time at hand. But, Larry saw an opportunity in this phenomena, stating that it was one of the prime reasons why India was great for them. “An Indian visitor, typically, stays longer in the USA; on an average, they spend more money. Most of them come to San Francisco and want to come to Vegas. They prefer to see more of tourist attractions; essentially, they explore more of the western United States,” he said. Adding that they have had considerable success with group itineraries that started in New York, and moved their way across the country to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, he told us that they had been able to have Reno and Lake Tahoe added to the itinerary that currently had San Francisco, L.A and Vegas. “So, I see Indian travelers coming in for longer stay as a positive. Another advantage that we leverage is that we are next door to California that hosts over six hundred thousand Indians – who have moved there to work in the IT industry. So, almost every Indian has a family or relative in California,” he shared.

For Nevada, key markets remained Germany, France, the UK, Mexico, Australia and South Korea. However, as the European markets have been long- established for them, their considerable effort and investment into augmenting visibility in India is a move that makes sense.

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