China Still Wants Vegas

With concerns about a cooling economy, labor union stirrings, fluctuating export figures, a housing bubble and some military positioning that’s become a talking point for Republicans, China dominates today’s international business headlines.

But for the past few years, a bright spot for Las Vegas tourism has been Chinese travel. Chinese visiting Las Vegas climbed to 148,000 in 2010, up from 87,000 in 2006, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. For 2011, Chinese visa applications for U.S. travel are up 30 percent, says Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the LVCVA.

Of the LVCVA’s $12 million annual international marketing budget, about $1 million goes toward efforts in Asia, a third of that specifically to China. Not a huge sum, given the return of a near doubling of visitors in only four years.

Even with the concerns surrounding the Chinese economy, Tull says “something really devastating” would need to happen in order for the Chinese to start losing interest in Sin City.

To help matters, McCarran International Airport’s third terminal will open in 2012, adding six gates specifically for international travel (plus an eventual seventh), and in 2013 Las Vegas will host the Route Development Group convention, the annual convention for aviation’s route-development industry.

Seoul, South Korea, is the direct nonstop route to Las Vegas that is closest to China. The hope is that the aviation industry eventually establishes a nonstop service route from a major Chinese city to Las Vegas.