April 24th, 2018

editorial-page-rossiVegas Strong: A Rallying Cry Beyond Las Vegas
Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

#VegasStrong

In the hours following the horrible tragedy that took place on the Las Vegas Strip on October 1, those two words became a rallying cry for a community. But they were much more – they were a commitment to strength, compassion, resiliency and unity from a community. Las Vegas has indeed been strong and the support of a worldwide community has given us the strength to move forward.

But that doesn’t mean #VegasStrong and its message are through. Like Las Vegas itself, the meaning needs to evolve. It needs to take on a new role and show our strength in a broader sense. It needs to unite the collective strength of destinations across the state for the good of the tourism industry.

Over the past several years, travel and tourism has steadily increased its profile in Washington, D.C. In the past decade, we’ve seen successes such as the executive order creating the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, the passage of the Travel Promotion Act, the expansion of the Visa Waiver Program, and the founding of Brand USA.

These and other successes have made great progress for our industry, but we all know that we can’t rest on your laurels. We need to continue to advocate for our industry to protect the progress we have made and further grow the industry’s profile in our nation’s capital.

With new administrations come new leaders across all agencies. With these new leaders comes the need to provide them with the understanding of the benefits our industry provides to our state and our economy. We need to impress upon them the value that Brand USA provides in promoting travel to our country – and the fact that they have a funding mechanism that rewards their own success. We need to convey to them the importance of having our voice at the table in agencies like the Commerce Department’s Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and the Transportation Department’s National Advisory Committee for Travel and Tourism Infrastructure.

Our industry must be heard above the noise in the beltway. In the coming year, we expect the attention to turn to our nation’s infrastructure. We need to convey the critical importance of improving our infrastructure because without safe and efficient travel there is not a tourism industry. Ensuring that our highways, bridges, airports, ports and more are the best in the world will help us to promote travel to the country and Nevada.

The LVCVA supports the issue of increasing the airline passenger facility charge and allowing individual airports to determine what critical projects those funds should support. We have also promoted the criticality of Interstate 11 between Las Vegas and Phoenix – and eventually Reno – in encouraging both increased tourism to Southern Nevada but also for commercial routes in the west. In relation to our infrastructure is maintaining the Open Skies Agreements with other nations to allow for all airlines to bring new routes to destinations like Las Vegas from around the world.

Travel and tourism are the bedrock of our state’s economy, and it’s crucial for all of us to make sure our elected officials – at all levels of government – are working to protect and promote that industry. Tourism is a job creator for our state and our nation, supporting 1 of every 9 jobs in the United States.

As the calendar turns to a new year, we all need to rally together to ensure that our federal delegation understands and fights for travel and tourism on Capitol Hill. Las Vegas is a leading destination for visitors from around the world, so policies that benefit the tourism industry nationally will benefit Las Vegas and Nevada as well.

So, don’t look at #VegasStrong as a rallying cry that got us through a very difficult time, but look at it as a call to action to make our voice heard. Together we can make a difference and be strong as one.