Las Vegas Sun

January 25, 2015

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After hiatus, scaled-down tourism conference gets back on track

RENO – When the Great Recession began to take its toll on Nevada in 2008, the tourism industry was one of the first to feel its effects.

One visible casualty of the downturn was the cancellation of the 2008 Governor’s Conference on Tourism a week before the scheduled opening of the event, which was to be the 25th anniversary edition of the gathering of the state’s tourism leaders. In November of that year, Gov. Jim Gibbons called a special session of the Legislature to address state budget issues on the day the conference was supposed to open at the Peppermill Resort in Reno.

Two years later, the industry is rebounding … slowly. But the Nevada Commission on Tourism felt the time was right to bring the event back.

The two-day conference opens Tuesday with presentations on the economy’s effects on the tourism industry, communicating with today’s traveler and the state of Nevada’s gaming industry on the agenda.

Attendees also plan to pay tribute to former Gov. Richard Bryan, who helped organize the state’s first tourism conference in 1983. Organizers of the scuttled 2008 conference were planning to recognize Bryan then.

Shortly after taking office as Nevada's governor in 1983, Bryan proposed creating the Nevada Commission on Tourism, funded by room taxes, to promote non-gaming attractions that would appeal to a wider variety of visitors and generate more revenue for the entire state. Bryan was re-elected in 1986 and later was elected to the U.S. Senate.

At the urging of Tourism Director Dann Lewis, the conference will be scaled down from past events that were conducted over three days. The conference will be Lewis’ first and last as director. He announced last month that he plans to step down in mid-December.

Throughout his tenure, Lewis has been frustrated with the massive budget cuts his department has endured. The Tourism Commission has emphasized that the projects it spends money on – marketing the state to visitors – produces a return on investment in the form of new tax revenue.

Attendance also is expected to be down from past events. Between 200 and 300 preregisterd for the event. In its heyday, the Governor’s Conference drew nearly1,000 people.

While the event has the governor’s name on it, Gibbons isn’t expected to make an appearance since he’ll be in Las Vegas hosting the Western Governors’ Association. Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval was invited to attend, but he’s in Washington to meet with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden along with other newly elected governors.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who chairs the Tourism Commission, will open the conference Tuesday afternoon after conducting the quarterly Tourism Commission meeting Tuesday morning.

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