As Senior Director of Leisure Sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), Art Jimenez is responsible for developing tourism programs to attract visitors to Las Vegas from the domestic leisure sector. This sector includes wholesale marketing, consortia promotions, FAMS, industry trade shows and destination booking incentives.
Before joining the LVCVA, Jimenez spent 13 years at Wet’n Wild Water Park in Las Vegas as vice president of sales and marketing. Additionally, he has served as president and chairman of the board of the Las Vegas Hospitality Association, and as a board member US Travel’s National Council of Attractions and Shop America.
TRO: Please explain LVCVA’s operations.
AJ: The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is the destination marketing organization for Southern Nevada, including Las Vegas, Laughlin, Mesquite, Primm, and Boulder City. We are tasked with attracting visitors, both leisure and business, to the destination. The LVCVA is responsible for the ever-popular “What Happens Here Stays Here” advertising campaign. In addition, the organization owns and operates two convention facilities – the Las Vegas Convention Center and Cashman Center. We have affiliate offices in 12 countries as well as regional offices in Laughlin, NV, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
TRO: How has your experience in the travel industry affected your work with LVCVA?
AJ: I have been in the tourism industry since 1986. Having spent 13 years with Wet’n Wild Water Parks and currently 12 years with the LVCVA, I have been exposed to both sides of tourism sales and marketing – retail and wholesale. My experience provides insight into what it takes to sell a product and what a wholesale company and travel agent needs to close the sale.
TRO: LVCVA specializes in both leisure travel and conventions, does either type of travel seem more popular than the other? If so, why do you think that is?
AJ: Las Vegas is primarily a leisure destination, with approximately 85 percent of our 37.5 million visitors traveling to Las Vegas for vacation. However, the convention market is a critical component of our visitation mix as it fills hotel rooms during the middle of the week.
TRO: Las Vegas has seen record amounts of international visitation recently. Why do you think this is and what has LVCVA done to aid in this increase?
AJ: Las Vegas has evolved from a regional gambling destination to a global resort destination in the past 20 years, and this has been a concerted effort supported by the entrepreneurial spirit of developers who saw the potential to expand our market. The LVCVA has targeted increased international visitation for several years, and we now have affiliate offices in 12 cities around the world that market Las Vegas to more than 70 cities. We have identified international travel as a key market for future growth and we have established a goal to grow international travel from 18 percent to 30 percent of our visitation mix in the next decade.
TRO: Please explain your relationships with travel agents.
AJ: A focus at the LVCVA is to identify, cultivate and reward top travel agents in the USA. We run booking incentives throughout the year and currently work with travel partners and their new programs to provide tools for automated tracking of bookings made on GDS and wholesaler websites.
TRO: Why should agents become involved with your company and how can they benefit from doing so?
AJ: As we identify top-producing travel agents we will be rolling out rewards programs with large independent travel agencies and consortia travel partners. These reward programs will allow agents to choose from a variety of Las Vegas promotional gifts to Las Vegas hotel room stays. We will also be rolling out our new travel professionals’ website later this fall which will supply agents with many e-Tools to help them with their sales and marketing programs.
TRO: What types of educational tools do you offer agents who wish to work with your organization?
AJ: Currently agents can log onto www.lvcva.com for commissionable opportunities, assistance with group requests forms, tips on destination information and a brochure ordering section. Of course agents can always call the Leisure Sales Department with any questions may have at (702)-892-2871.
TRO: What advice would you give agents who wish to sell Las Vegas?
AJ: Seeing is believing. Since Las Vegas is consistently the number one domestic destination in the USA, we encourage agents to contact their preferred wholesale companies for FAM dates or attend one of the many consortia learning conferences or trade shows held in Las Vegas. Also, I would suggest working closely with Business Development Managers for up-to-the-minute specials for their clients.
TRO: LVCVA has recently promoted the “outdoor Las Vegas adventure.” Travelers and/or their agents may not be familiar of this aspect of Las Vegas tourism. Please give a little information about this.
AJ: Outdoor adventure is nothing new to the Las Vegas market. However, travelers are now learning just how much is available to them here. We are the gateway to numerous state and national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Zion National Parks. The surrounding area provides opportunities not only for golf, hiking, mountain biking and desert jeep tours, but most people may not realize that, in Las Vegas, they are within a 45-minute drive to the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort at Mt. Charleston and the Lake Mead recreation area for boating and water skiing. One of the newest outdoor amenities added in the past few years is the Bootleg Canyon Flightlines, an aerial zip line park built into Red Mountain in Boulder City, Nev.
TRO: Are you promoting anything new that agents may want to know about?
AJ: Michael Jackson’s Immortal Tour / Cirque du Soleil will be housed at Mandalay Bay beginning 2012 and Shania Twain will begin a residence tour at The Coliseum at Caesars Palace beginning in 2012.
Also, in late 2011, former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will open Oscar’s Steakhouse, a uniquely Las Vegas steakhouse, inside the iconic dome of the Plaza Hotel and Casino overlooking Fremont Street and the heart of his Downtown Las Vegas. In addition to the steakhouse, a new Italian restaurant and speakeasy will feature Oscar’s name and pay homage to Goodman’s years as an advisor and private attorney representing high-profile clients that played a role in making Vegas what it is today.
TRO: Is there anything else you would like to share with the travel agent community?
AJ: Las Vegas has enjoyed over 16 consecutive months of visitor increases, a feat we would not be able to accomplish without our travel agent community. Over 12%, or. 4.5 million visitors used a travel agent to plan and book their trip in 2010 and we are very grateful for their continuous hard work.