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October 24, 2014

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Tourism column:

Elections won’t change the face of LVCVA board much

By the time you read this, Southern Nevada voters will have chosen new representatives to city councils in Henderson, North Las Vegas and Boulder City.

Next comes the wrangling to determine which elected officials will be chosen to get a plum assignment and serve on one of the most influential boards in the tourism industry, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The LVCVA board, a nice assignment for elected officials because of its high profile, is composed of 14 members, eight elected and six from the private sector.

Three of the eight elected officials are being term-limited off the board with the changing of the guard occurring at the July meeting. Four of the appointed private-sector members also will have their terms come up. That means half of the LVCVA board positions could change hands in July.

But they probably won’t.

The three elected representatives will definitely be gone and the June 9 session will be their last meeting in their current capacity. They include Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson, who serves as the board’s secretary-treasurer; North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon; and Boulder City Councilman Mike Pacini.

The City of Henderson position could be filled by whoever is elected mayor, Andy Hafen or Steve Kirk, and whoever loses could still be in the running as a member of the council. Other prospects include the winner of the race between Kathleen Boutin and Cathy Rosenfield or incumbent Councilwoman Gerri Schroder.

The North Las Vegas slot could go to the new mayor, either Shari Buck or William Robinson. Like in Henderson, the loser of the mayor’s race could still be in the running as a council representative, or the position could go to Councilman Robert Eliason or the winner between council candidates Anthony Carvalho and Anita Wood.

In Boulder City, four challengers are seeking two council seats — Duncan McCoy, Joe Roche, Bill Smith and Cam Walker. The Boulder City representative also could be incumbent council members Travis Chandler or Linda Strickland or Mayor Roger Tobler.

Other elected officials who will remain on the LVCVA board include its chairman, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Mesquite Mayor Susan Holecheck and Las Vegas Councilman Gary Reese, whose terms expire in June 2011; and Clark County Commissioners Tom Collins and Lawrence Weekly, whose terms end in December 2012.

It’s less complicated for the appointed private-sector members. Three positions each are selected by the Nevada Resort Association and the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, with each entity now considering two appointments. Term expirations are coming up in June for chamber picks Kara Kelley, president and CEO of the chamber, and Tom Jenkin, president of Harrah’s Entertainment’s Western Division, and NRA selections Charles Bowling, an executive vice president of MGM Mirage, and Scott Nielson, an executive vice president of Station Casinos.

LVCVA officials say Kelley, Jenkin, Bowling and Nielson are eligible for reappointment and likely will stay on. And unlike the elected officials, the appointed private-sector representatives don’t have term limits.

Two appointed members whose terms expire in June 2010 are Keith Smith, president and CEO of Boyd Gaming, the board’s vice chairman, an NRA pick, and Andrew Pascal, president and chief operating officer of Wynn Las Vegas, selected by the chamber.

Although there’s a potential for major turnover on the LVCVA board, it’s more likely that most of the current board and its philosophy will remain intact.

Code-share deal delayed

A few weeks ago, things were looking really promising for Southwest Airlines, the busiest operator at McCarran International Airport.

But recently, booking trends have weakened and the airline was forced to dedicate some of its resources from the implementation of a code-share agreement with Canadian discount carrier WestJet to projects that will more rapidly generate revenue.

It’s a minor setback for Las Vegas, which figures to have some role in whatever code-share deal Southwest and WestJet come up with.

Under traditional code-share arrangements, partners sell tickets on each other’s flights, coordinate schedules and seamlessly transfer baggage between flights. Southwest’s arrangement with WestJet was scheduled to take effect in late 2009. The airlines gave no indication when code-share efforts would be renewed.

Southwest backed off on its timetable, choosing to redirect resources to other unspecified near-term revenue opportunities.

“In response to the current economic environment, Southwest is focusing its immediate attention on several critical objectives, including increasing our revenues,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest’s executive vice president of strategy and planning. “While I am very excited about working to deliver new incremental revenue opportunities for 2009, it will have an impact on our timing for code-share delivery.”

McCarran currently is the airport with the most WestJet flights where Southwest has a presence. The discount carrier, Canada’s No. 2 airline, offers nonstop routes between Las Vegas and Vancouver, British Columbia; Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Toronto, with seasonal service to Victoria and Kelowna, British Columbia; and Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

But WestJet also is committed to expanding its presence in the United States. It already offers flights to other Southwest cities — Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix and, in Florida, Tampa, Orlando, Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale.

So, it’s possible that Las Vegas won’t have as instrumental a role in the deal.

On its face, a code-share arrangement wouldn’t have that great an impact on Las Vegas, since all passengers would do is change planes here. That means McCarran would collect more landing fees and the passengers that go from their WestJet flights to Southwest flights or vice-versa could spend some money at the airport.

But there is potential for something more if the airlines talked about finding a way to allow their passengers to stay overnight here as part of the package deal.

The other thing the code-share would do is encourage more flights to make the deal work. And what that means is that there would be more availability to come to Las Vegas since the additional flights would generate seats that could be used by visitors who just want to come here.

For that reason, the delay is a disappointment – but not a disaster.

McCarran already has made some moves to accommodate the deal.

WestJet is McCarran’s fastest-growing airline, serving more than 75,000 passengers in April, ranking it ninth among the airport’s carriers. The airport shifted most of WestJet’s operation to Terminal 1’s B concourse since most people on those flights are pre-cleared for international travel before they leave Canada.

McCarran has built a passenger bridge linking the B concourse with Southwest’s C gates to enable easier access between flights.

WestJet said it understands Southwest’s position and it remains committed to enacting the agreement.

“Our continued U.S. expansion is a key strategy for our airline, but code-sharing is only one element of this,” said Hugh Dunleavy, WestJet’s executive vice president of commercial distribution. “Both airlines remain committed to minimizing delays and are focused on generating revenue as quickly as possible. We have implemented our distribution agreement and are close to starting a cargo program with Southwest.”

Southwest hasn’t indicated whether the delay with WestJet or the other revenue opportunities the airline is exploring would affect another code-share deal it has planned with Mexican carrier Volaris.

“We have not made any decisions or announcements regarding (the) Volaris timing but we are evaluating both code-shares in relation to resources available,” said a Southwest spokesman. “We have more time to make a decision regarding Volaris since it was not scheduled to go online until next year.”

CineVegas opens next week

Who would have thought a decade ago that CineVegas, the Las Vegas film festival that opens its six-day run on June 10, would become the tourist magnet that it is?

The festival, now in its 11th year, has grown steadily and is right at home at the Palms Casino Resort and its Brendan Theatres complex.

This year’s lineup includes 13 world premieres, including “Saint John of Las Vegas, with Steve Buscemi and Sarah Silverman on opening night and “All In — The Poker Movie,” a documentary about the growth of the poker industry. The closing night will include Bobcat Goldthwait’s new dark comedy “World’s Greatest Dad,” with Robin Williams. Films by Nevada filmmakers and short features by students at UNLV and the College of Southern Nevada also are on the docket.

Actors Jon Voight and Willem Dafoe and homemade movie pioneers George and Mike Kuchar will be honored with awards on June 14.

A number of tourism-oriented companies and organizations recognize the draw CineVegas has become and are sponsoring events and awards, including the LVCVA, N9NE Group, Southwest Airlines, the Grand Canyon Skywalk, Cirque du Soleil, Mandalay Bay and Planet Hollywood.

The Greenspun Media Group, which In Business Las Vegas is a part of, is one of the presenting-level sponsors of the event.

Richard N. Velotta covers tourism for In Business Las Vegas and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at 259-4061 or at [email protected].

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