Andrew Levine Contributor
In the world of destination marketing, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) starts with an enormous financial advantage – a marketing budget of $92 million. That’s larger than the corresponding budgets of the convention and visitor bureaus of Orlando, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago combined.
“That’s a healthy budget and we’re certainly lucky to have it,” acknowledged Cathy Tull, Senior Vice President of Marketing at the LVCVA. “But we also have 150,000 hotel rooms to sell each night.” And with an average occupancy rate of 84% – a number that is nearly twenty points higher than the average of cities across the country – they do an exceptional job filling those rooms.
I recently had the opportunity to interview senior members of the team responsible for marketing Las Vegas. As we discussed their recipe for success, four key elements emerged:
A Research-Based Approach…”Research is in our DNA and everything we do is based off consumer insights,” Ms. Tull shared. While surveys and focus groups are common practice at the organization, sometimes research is conducted in more unusual ways. A recent case in point: the LVCVA created a “Millennial Think Tank” of a dozen millennial-aged meeting planners. The LVCVA invited them to Las Vegas for two days of meetings and discussions. “It’s not just asking the questions. It’s listening to what they have to say and then designing programs that meet their needs,” said Michael Goldsmith, Vice President of International Marketing.
Nimble and Opportunistic… With 515 staffers, the LVCVA, which also operates the Las Vegas Convention Center and Cashman Field, is one of the largest DMOs in the country. But it doesn’t behave like a slow-moving bureaucratic organization. The “Prince Harry” fiasco – when pictures of the naked royal in a Las Vegas suite were released on website TMZ.com – is a case in point. A clear violation of the “What Happens Here, Stays Here” code, the LVCVA immediately rallied around Prince Harry by calling out the photographer who took the pictures and sold them for profit. A nationwide advertising and social media campaign closely followed encouraging all visitors to “Know the Code” and ensure that what happens in Vegas to stays in Vegas.
Innovation Every Day… Rob Dondero, Executive Vice President of advertising agency R&R Partners, has worked on the Las Vegas account for 29 years. “I have a team that sits down every morning and we go through what is going on in our feeder markets – Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego and others. And we figure out, how we can put Las Vegas into the conversation in each market.” Back in October 2014 when Southwest Airlines opened direct service from Dallas’ Love Field, the LVCVA responded with a “Live at 35” (as in 35,000 feet in the air) concert. Las Vegas headliner Frankie Marino performed – complete with back-up band – on one of the inaugural flights.
Close Connections with the Home Team…“The relationship with our resort partners is very, very special. We’re a very tight knit group,” according to Caroline Coyle, the LVCVA’s Vice President of Brand Strategy. When the International Council of Shopping Centers explored moving their global conference to a different city, the LVCVA and its marketing partners quickly collaborated to create a customized “Our City Is Your City” video presentation featuring entertainers Penn Jillette & Donny Osmond, Pawn Star’s Rick Harrison, MGM Resorts Chairman James Murren and other Vegas personalities. The presentation was delivered to the six members of the ICSC’s conference selection committee on personalized iPads. The ICSC’s Recon Convention and its 34,000 attendees stayed with Las Vegas.
As the team pointed out in our conversation, Las Vegas is literally a destination built on calculated risk. The LVCVA and its partners have been willing to take risks every step of the way in telling the city’s story. And that’s one of the reasons why they have emerged as a key leader in destination marketing.