John Bischoff addresses the Las Vegas Hospitality Association
At the Las Vegas Hospitality Association’s (LVHA) August 20 luncheon at Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio restaurant at the Venetian, the guest speaker was John Bischoff, vice president of international brand strategy for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). Along with statistics, Bischoff covered how the LVCVA is branding Las Vegas in the international marketplace, how LVHA members can get involved, and how important it is to be flexible in these changing times.
Bischoff joined the LVCVA a year-and-a-half ago to develop the company’s international sales division and build Las Vegas into the “world’s” most desirable destination. In the 1990s, the LVCVA had eight international sales offices. In 2007, the LVCVA Board of Directors adopted a global strategy, and in 2008, the LVCVA approved 12 offices representing 75 countries around the world. Before this new brand division, the LVCVA focused on the leisure market for foreign visitation.
In each foreign office, there are three types of people: an account manager, who is the “face of Las Vegas;” a person devoted to MICE (meeting, incentive, conference, events); and a public relations person to help market the brand. All total the offices employ upwards of 50 people.
Bischoff asked the question, “Why bother to go after the international market if it’s so difficult with challenges such as homeland security, visa and passport issues, biometric identifiers, consumer confidence, currency fluctuations and exchange rates, etc.?”
His answer was, “International visitors plan their trip in advance, stay longer, and spend twice-as-much money as a domestic visitor.” He pointed out that this not only includes gaming revenue, but also non-gaming expenditures such as lodging, sightseeing, shopping, food and beverages and transportation.
What is the LVCVA’s strategic vision? It’s a tiered approach, brand global domination, plus specific local, in-country, and regionalized branding. Bischoff explained the LVCVA’s three tiers. The first tier is Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom, which makes up 70 percent of the international market, but it’s going down. The second tier at 20 percent and going up covers the European Union, Australia/New Zealand/Southeast Asia, South America and Russia/Eastern Europe. The third tier is the emerging markets China, Russia, India and Brazil.
The LVCVA operates off of 33.8 percent of the room tax revenue. While the visitation has been down, in 2007, Las Vegas had 39,196,000 visitors with 4.7 million international visitors making up 12 percent. In 2008, the Las Vegas-figure dropped to 37,500,000 visitors, but the international number jumped by 900,000 for an increase to 15 percent penetration.
Other efforts by the LVCVA include managing seven foreign specialized “VisitLasVegas” websites and introducing “Las” in front of the “Vegas Only” logo. Bischoff said not everyone knows the destination as “Vegas” and that the slogan, “What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas,” doesn’t necessarily translate literally in other countries so it too needs to be massaged.
Bischoff mentioned the ways in which LVHA and tourism industry processionals in Las Vegas can get involved. People can go on sales missions, work trade shows, support fams (familiarization trips), invest in programs by offering products and services, stay in constant communication with the LVCVA and give feedback.
The LVCVA also works to get more direct flights to Las Vegas and has met with much international success especially in the United Kingdom where Virgin Air currently offers nine weekly direct flights. Beginning October 26, British Airways will debut daily direct flights offering 7,500 more seats monthly.
Bischoff summed up how his LVCVA division may accomplish its goals. “We need budget flexibility as we seek out infinite opportunities. We need to apply money where there’s an opportunity on the LVCVA’s behalf.” He also emphasized that Las Vegas needs to be both proactive and reactivate to situations that arise.