Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority plans to refine its marketing and advertising strategy next month as experts zero in on the changing characteristics of typical Las Vegas visitors and how to reach them.
Agency executives said they plan to present a marketing plan for 2011 at next month’s board meeting after giving a recap Tuesday of the 2010 ad and marketing programs.
Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing, told board members that the LVCVA has produced an estimated $650 million in earned media value with its $87 million advertising budget.
“Earned media” includes television, magazine and newspaper mentions about Las Vegas that result from advertising and marketing campaigns.
The LVCVA and its contracted advertising consultant, R&R Partners, have spent seven months researching what makes the post-recession consumer tick. The last piece of the plan is delivering an advertising and marketing message that resonates with a consumer that has endured the trauma of the recession.
“The recession has changed the ball game,” Tull said in an interview after the meeting. “There’s a new consumer out there, and we have to know what that means. The recession has changed the buying habits of a whole group of people.”
The marketing experts are hoping to develop campaigns that will encourage travelers to choose Las Vegas over other destinations.
“We know the visitor spend is off,” Tull said, “but that’s why we need to look at this new campaign.”
The LVCVA got a taste of the changing demographic in the 2010 fiscal year, reacting at different stages of the nation’s economic recovery with different ad messages.
“In a tough year, I think we did some pretty good work,” Billy Vassiliadis, who heads R&R Partners, told the LVCVA board. “Every dollar that was spent goes through the filter of return on investment.”
Vassiliadis also credited a critic of R&R and the LVCVA — the limited government-supporting Nevada Policy Research Institute — for pressing his company and the LVCVA to be more conscientious about spending public money.
The NPRI in 2008 and 2009 issued critical reports on the transparency of LVCVA spending and its relationship with R&R. The LVCVA in 2009 changed a number of spending policies and procedures in the wake of the NPRI reports.
LVCVA board member Chuck Bowling, an executive with MGM Resorts International, praised the work of the staff and R&R, noting that “Las Vegas does more in a week than most cities do in a year.”
He said the LVCVA’s marketing plan has had to change on the fly as the public mindset changed.
“We’ve had to be a lot more nimble, a lot more not set in our ways,” Bowling said.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who chairs the LVCVA board, praised the marketing efforts but blasted the media for paying more attention to bad news than good. He ripped the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a front-page story calling attention to The Daily Beast’s annual survey of the nation’s smartest cities in which Las Vegas finished last among 55 cities.
Goodman also said he was asked to comment on Las Vegas hotel occupancy rates and how 20 percent of rooms are vacant on average.
“I said that means our hotels are 80 percent full,” Goodman said. “I think the reporter was surprised that I was able to figure that out. The national average for occupancy rates is 55 percent, so I think we’re doing very well. We should be celebrating what we’re all about instead of having to defend ourselves.”
Tull said occupancy rates are off compared with previous years, but she pointed out that there are 15,000 more hotel rooms to fill now than there were in 2007 when the recession hit. Some hotels — the Southpoint, Hard Rock and Golden Nugget — opened new towers while the M Resort and CityCenter opened in that time frame. Several nongaming properties also opened their doors since 2007.
As of September, there were 148,402 hotel rooms in Southern Nevada, and the total will cross the 150,000 mark in December when the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas opens.
In other business, representatives of the Service Employees International Union asked the board to consider ending job furloughs in December and January so that employees can earn more money during the holidays.
The LVCVA and SEIU are expecting a report from an arbitrator by early December on an impasse in contract negotiations for union laborers seeking an end to furloughs and wage freezes. The LVCVA entered the 14th month of furloughs, which result in an estimated 10 percent cut in pay, this month.
The LVCVA board didn’t address a board vacancy. Wynn Las Vegas President Andrew Pascal resigned his position on Monday, according to a regulatory filing. Pascal has been on the LVCVA board for several years, appointed at the recommendation of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, which makes selections on three board positions.