Posts Tagged ‘tourism’

$3 Million Tourism Contract Approved By State Board, Funding Still In Limbo

By Sean Whaley | 2:14 pm July 13th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The state Board of Examiners today approved a $3 million contract with an out-of-state firm to spearhead tourism efforts in Nevada after being told the selection process was thorough and fair.

The board, with members Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto voting, approved the two-year contract with the California-based offices of Burson-Marsteller.

Approval came despite the fact that the contract remains in limbo. The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee in June delayed approval of budgetary changes sought by the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs needed to pay the contract.

The budget changes were deferred after state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, a candidate for the 4th Congressional District seat, questioned if the firm had any knowledge of Nevada. The Interim Finance Committee won’t meet again until Aug. 23.

Sandoval said he was satisfied that the selection process was proper. He also noted that Nevada has some preferences for Nevada firms competing for contracts, but that the provisions did not come into play to the selection process.

If there was a tie, for example, then a Nevada firm would get the nod, but there was no tie in this case.

“I’m confident in the process,” Sandoval said after the vote. “I think that it was a well-vetted process that was consistent with what the state has always done. It was consistent with the law. There was a committee that was comprised of both private sector experts in the area as well as experts within the state of Nevada that fairly graded each of the applicants.”

Nineteen firms, eight from in-state and 11 from outside Nevada, submitted proposals to secure the contract.

“I think that the entity that was selected will do well for the state of Nevada,” Sandoval said.

Claudia Vecchio, director of the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, along with Greg Smith, state administrator and chief procurement officer of the Nevada State Purchasing Division, reviewed the selection process for the board.

The request for proposals was handled like any other such contract, with no special treatment provided to any firm, Smith said.

Vecchio defended the contract and selection process at the Interim Finance Committee meeting, noting that none of the four finalists were from Nevada, a fact which generated comment from at least one Nevada public relations firm.

Burson-Marsteller, with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, was the unanimous selection of an evaluation committee made up of Nevada tourism professionals, Vecchio said. The company will be working with Red Rock Strategies out of Las Vegas, she said.

The contract has been drawn up and signed by both parties, but it remains contingent upon approval of state officials.

Vecchio said the firm will provide national and international contacts that will benefit the state.


Audio clip:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says the selection process was fair and followed the law:

071312Sandoval :19 of the applicants.”



State Lawmaker Says Action To Delay Tourism Contract Exceeds Legislative Authority

By Sean Whaley | 1:12 pm June 22nd, 2012

CARSON CITY – State lawmakers have put a new tourism contract to promote Nevada on hold despite the concerns of one lawmaker that the move exceeds legislative authority.

Concerns have been raised by Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, about the intent to award the two-year, $3.2 million contract to an out-of-state firm.

Burson-Marsteller, one of the largest public relations firms in the country, was selected by a state agency to handle the promotion of Nevada for the next two years.

“We haven’t had a bad tourism plan in the past, so I have some real reservations,” Horsford said during Thursday’s Interim Finance Committee meeting. “And to bring in a national firm, that I think is based out of New York, to come in here in our state and promote rural communities, that they don’t even know where they are, let alone what they do; I have some real questions and reservations about that.”

Horsford is running for the 4th Congressional seat, which includes a large swath of rural Nevada in addition to parts of Clark County.

Ultimately lawmakers decided to hold off on approving budgetary changes sought by Claudia Vecchio, director of the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, that would allow the contract to go forward, citing several questions they wanted answered first.

Tourism Director Claudia Vecchio. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

That decision was opposed by Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, who said lawmakers are exceeding their constitutional authority by intervening in an Executive Branch function.

“The fact of the matter is that some people didn’t like the contract so now they’re not going to appropriate the funding,” he said. “That’s going backwards and that’s not our job.”

The Legislature appropriates revenue and authorizes expenditures, but it is up to the Executive Branch to implement those decisions, Kieckhefer said. The decision was an attempt to do a de facto denial of the contract and it overstepped legislative authority, he said.

“I totally understand the concern that we’re spending a significant amount of money on a big contract with an out-of-state vendor,” Kieckhefer said. “But the simple fact of the matter is that no Nevada company was in the top five in this (Request for Proposals).

“I wish we would spend money in Nevada and we do as much as we can,” he said. “But this bid process followed every law that we have in statute, followed every policy set by the Legislature in terms of bidder preference and things like that, and the simple fact of the matter is that this was the best company to do the job. And their job is to drive more traffic to Nevada to enhance our economy, to enhance our biggest industry, which is still hospitality and tourism and gaming.”

Delaying a contract that will help the state’s economy grow is ludicrous, Kieckhefer said.

Vecchio defended the contract and selection process at the meeting. Nineteen companies submitted proposals, but none of the four finalists were from Nevada, a fact which generated comment from at least one Nevada public relations firm.

Burson-Marsteller, which is actually based in Los Angeles, was the unanimous selection of an evaluation committee made up of Nevada tourism professionals, Vecchio said. The company will be working with Red Rock Strategies out of Las Vegas, she said.

The contract has been drawn up and signed by both parties, but it remains contingent upon approval of state officials.

Vecchio said the firm will provide national and international contacts that will benefit the state.

“The value that you get back, and the value that comes back to a destination by working with the best in the business, is tenfold, twentyfold over what it is with somebody who just has that local perspective,” she said.

Burson-Marsteller has proposed an idea for a smart phone application that will provide a way for visitors to craft itineraries and access to services in both cellular telephone service and non-service areas, Vecchio said. Much of rural Nevada does not have cellular phone service, but the information will be downloaded to the phone and so will be available to visitors, she said.

“That’s a game changer for this state,” Vecchio said. “So it is the understanding of our visitor needs that is so important to our success.”

Vecchio, appointed in October 2011 by Gov. Brian Sandoval to the tourism job,has previously worked for Burson-Marsteller in Dallas as well as for the Edelman public relations firm in Chicago.

Horsford said he is certain that there are firms in Nevada with the regional and national experience that could perform the work although he said he did not know the identities of all 19 applicants.

“The Legislature set a policy that 5 percent preference should be given to Nevada-based businesses,” he said. “So this is a policy that the Legislature and the governor believe was important, particularly at this time when so many business, and advertising and PR is no exception, need the work.”


Audio clips:

Sen. Steven Horsford says the company picked for the tourism contract does not know Nevada:

062212Horsford1 :25 reservations about that.”

Horsford says Nevada has a policy to give a preference to state firms:

062212Horsford2 :21 need the work.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says the IFC vote exceeded its authority:

062212Kieckhefer1 :27 implements those things.”

Kieckhefer says the selection process followed all the rules:

062212Kieckhefer2 :23 in this RFP.”:

Tourism Director Claudia Vecchio says a national firm will provide major benefits to the state:

062212Vecchio :17 that local perspective.”





Gov. Sandoval Appoints First Director Of Tourism And Cultural Affairs

By Sean Whaley | 5:23 pm October 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval has appointed Claudia Vecchio as the first director of the new Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. She will begin her job Nov. 14.

The newly constituted department is comprised of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, Division of Museums and History, Nevada Arts Council and the Nevada Indian Commission.

“Claudia is an experienced destination marketer with a solid background in social media and branding,” Sandoval said. “Together with her appreciation for history and culture, her background is ideally suited to taking us to the next level in how we engage with Nevadans and tourists alike.

“I look forward to her leadership in promoting Nevada’s many fine destinations, as well as preserving and enhancing our sense of history, appreciation for the arts, and well-being of our Native American population,” he said. “I am pleased to make this appointment as we kick off Nevada History Month.”

Vecchio previously served as the tourism director in Ohio. In that post, she supervised the overall brand development of state tourism, working closely with the Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Arts Council to create development programs.

While in Ohio, Vecchio and her team developed a marketing program to assist in the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. She also helped open the Toledo Glass Museum and the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

In a telephone interview, Vecchio said she was intrigued by the position because of all the state has to offer, from Las Vegas to Virginia City to Lake Tahoe and the many other gems waiting to be discovered by visitors.

“It has everything from one of the largest tourism destinations in the world to these rich, textured, smaller, rural communities that have so much appeal,” she said.

Welcome to Las Vegas sign. / Photo: David Vasquez.

“I so look forward to working with the governor, and with the lieutenant governor and all of the industry partners to help shape this new role – but when we bring that cultural affairs piece into it then you’re really taking about the heart and soul of the state with that kind of a product,” Vecchio said.

Vecchio said she has experience working on Olympic bids as well, which fits in well with efforts under way by the state to submit a bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics for the Lake Tahoe region.

The new agency was created in part due to the state’s budget difficulties. The former Department of Cultural Affairs was eliminated as part of Sandoval’s budget. The museums and other programs will continue, with several functions operating under the new agency.

Vecchio also has an extensive background in marketing, having worked with the Edelman public relations firm in Chicago and Burson-Marsteller in Dallas. She is currently president of Destination Integration in Dallas, where she provides marketing programs for small and mid-sized communities that integrate tourism and economic development components.

Vecchio has a bachelor’s degree in organizational communications from Brigham Young University. She is the recipient of several Public Relations Society of America and America Marketing Association Awards, including recognition for web marketing. She has also served on the Travel Industry Association of America’s Council of State Tourism Directors.


Audio clips:

New Tourism and Cultural Affairs Director Claudia Vecchio says Nevada has everything from Las Vegas to rich, smaller communities:

100311Vecchio1 :13 so much appeal.”

Vecchio says she looks forward to working with Gov. Brian Sandoval and others to help shape the role of the new department:

100311Vecchio2 :18 of a product.”



Outlook partly sunny for Nevada retailers, says trade association

By Anne Knowles | 2:27 pm August 17th, 2011

With back-to-school buying stagnant but an uptick in sales expected this holiday season, the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN) is forecasting a mixed outlook for the state’s retailers.

In a brief report released today, RAN says a continued slump in the state’s economy coupled with ever increasing growth in online sales could continue to hamper retail sales through the end of the year.

“The outlook now is things are fuzzy, things are a little hectic, but we anticipate a strong consumer show for those holiday times,” said Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs at RAN in Las Vegas. “But that’s not to say there isn’t cause for pause. We’re definitely still seeing unemployment, we’re still seeing foreclosure rates. We are seeing uptick on the Strip, we’re seeing visitor volume increase, we’re seeing people come in on airplanes, McCarran visitor volume is up. So we’re going to be looking for those to start trickling into the local economy.”

In his report, Wachter cited several negative trends that could curtail spending for the next several years. Consumer debt has dropped from a peak in the third quarter of 2007, but Wachter said that improvement is misleading.

(But) the declines are heavily influenced by [1] the discharge of debt through bankruptcy and other forms of default and [2] payment ratios being artificially reduced by extended periods of record-low interest rates. Many Nevada consumers are underwater on their homes and are carrying substantial credit card debt; the systematic repayment of these obligations will inevitably cannibalize consumer spending for at least the next several years.

Wachter said that while interest rates are low now, and the Federal Reserve Bank has committed to keeping them low through next year, Standard & Poor’s recent downgrade of U.S. debt could bump rates up, putting a further damper on spending.

Consumer confidence could remain low and Nevada, stigmatized with the worst unemployment in the nation, may have difficulty attracting new business, says the report.

And the online marketplace is likely to continue to sap sales from brick-and-mortar stores. That’s in part because unlike other retailers, most internet-based merchants don’t collect sales tax, which in Clark County is 8 percent.

“Their products are eight percent cheaper just based off the ability to not have to collect tax,” said Wachter. “We think that’s unfair. It’s almost a government-mandated advantage for the online companies.”

On the bright side, Wachter said visitor volume jumped in the last 12 months by 3 percent, or by 1.3 million trips. Those visitors are spending less at casino tables but more on eating, drinking, shopping and entertainment.

Wachter projects pent-up demand for large ticket items such as cars and appliances, which consumers have been putting off buying for the last few years.

Also, Nevada’s population, based on increasing surrenders of out-of-state driving licenses to the Department of Motor Vehicles and a spike in school enrollments, is growing. Some of that growth comes from retirees, who could be a stable segment of the retail market, and from Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders, who have been under-served by retailers in the past.

“That’s good and bad,” said Wachter. “That’s good for retailers who are able to adapt and move, and it’s unfortunate for retailers who can’t adapt.”


Audio clips

RAN’s Bryan Wachter says retailers tied to construction, such as furniture stores, may be in for a tougher time than other merchants:

081711Wachter1 :25 general merchandise stores.”


RAN’s Wachter says the upcoming holiday season and increased tourism is cause for cautious optimism among retailers:

081711Wachter2 :34 into local economy.”



Governor’s Conference On Tourism To Return In December After Two-Year Hiatus

By Sean Whaley | 11:04 am June 3rd, 2010

CARSON CITY – The popular Governor’s Conference on Tourism will return in December after a two-year hiatus, Gov. Jim Gibbons and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki announced today.

The conference put on by the Nevada Commission on Tourism, NCOT, had been put on hold due to budget limitations.

“It was a difficult decision to put the conference on hold, but the economy and strained budgets required NCOT to do so,” said commission Chairman Krolicki. “The conference has become a staple of learning and networking for Nevada’s tourism industry, and it’s with great pleasure we can resume this valuable program.”

Gibbons said the costs of the conference have been scaled back because of the state’s fiscal problems, but that a full spectrum of content will be offered.

“As we move toward fiscal recovery we must support the needs of Nevada’s tourism industry, a staple of our state’s economic base,” Gibbons said.

The conference will take place at the Peppermill Resort Casino in Reno, and the schedule will be condensed into two days, Dec. 7 and 8. It will focus heavily on analyzing current travel trends in order to understand economically induced changes to who is traveling, how they’re traveling and how to reach them. The registration fee will also be significantly reduced from previous years to reflect the shorter yet high-caliber schedule.

“Professional development is one of those things that often gets cut in tough times, but it’s still so essential to the health of our industry,” NCOT Director Dann Lewis said. “We wanted to offer a concentrated program that won’t take individuals away from their desks too long or cause a financial hardship but gives them useful tools to take back to work and apply.”

The 2010 Governor’s Conference on Tourism is partnering with the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), which is holding a conference Dec. 8-10 on social media marketing. The Reynold’s School of Journalism, College of Business and Extended Studies program are hosting the conference (Social Media at Reno-Tahoe) and will help develop and promote the Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

More information on the Governor’s Conference on Tourism will be announced as speakers are confirmed.

Governor Gibbons’ Statement on His Two Top Priorities

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:07 am March 16th, 2010

Jim Gibbons on Nevada’s economy, just now:

“I have two main priorities:  jobs and tourism. And I am busting my butt to get something done. I have tasked my cabinet with finding out why people and/or jobs are going to other states and not coming to us. I am asking for a monthly report on which companies are looking at our state and why they are, or are not, choosing Nevada.”

Ok, but I would think (hope) this kind of prioritizing, researching and reporting would have been ongoing for the past, oh, two years as well. Since that is about how long the state’s economy has been in a death spiral…

Talked to a spokesperson in the governor’s office about that new blue-ribbon education panel, too.  Will post on that shortly.