Las Vegas Sun

July 27, 2016

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Q+A: Bethany Drysdale:

Tourism official: Nevada has lots of merit beyond the Strip

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A screen capture from a travel website showcased Nevada’s tourism offerings, which include skiing, rock climbing and other outdoor activities as well as gambling.

The Strip is like a one-night stand for many young travelers. It’s good for a quick visit, but it’s not the only memory they want of a Western adventure.

Millennials with cash to travel want interesting and unique stories as vacation memorabilia, said Bethany Drysdale, public relations director for TravelNevada, formerly known as the state Division of Tourism.

TravelNevada is in charge of promoting the Strip but also Nevada’s innumerable ghost towns, mountain ranges and natural attractions. The agency is working to adapt to changing media markets and different tourist demographics.

Drysdale recently spoke with The Sunday about how she woos tourists and her favorite spots in Nevada.

Nevada has the loneliest road in America, Great Basin National Park, Cathedral Gorge and countless other attractions. But the Las Vegas Strip overshadows them all. How do you spread the word about destinations beyond Las Vegas Boulevard?

Promoting for the millennial market helps us in a nice way. They’ve been to Las Vegas, and all their friends have been to Las Vegas. Millennials don’t want an experience all their friends have had.

None of their friends will be able to have an Instagram post from Little Finland in Lake Mead, for example. Experiential travels are like merit badges. It’s stuff that none of their friends have seen on Facebook. It’s an experience their friends aren’t going to have and will talk about.

Las Vegas is a jumping point for Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon and Death Valley national parks. How do you keep people here?

You can’t tell someone from Ireland that they have to stay in Nevada. It would be a shame to tell someone not to see the Golden Gate bridge if they’re in Reno. So we promote the entire region. We have an open mind about the attractions around us but we keep Las Vegas a hub. Go see L.A., make trips to the Grand Canyon but come back to Nevada.

How have promotions shifted over the years?

The needs of travelers have changed; the audience has changed. We were targeting baby boomers — people with more money and free time — with traditional ads. That has changed with the rise of the millennial mindset. If it’s Instagram worthy, it is a trip millennials will take. We are doing more social media and more direct-to-consumer outreach. We do Instagram takeovers, selecting someone with a really good audience, letting them post on our account when they are on a trip. In 2014, we had 700 Instagram followers. We hit 10,000 this past November.

Do you still use traditional media?

We have outdoor ads and do print in National Geographic and Outdoor magazine. It comes with social media and other opportunities. We also do TV ads in the five major fly-in markets: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake, Phoenix and Boise.

Also, it sounds retro, but we’re doing movie theater advertising. We also do look-alike modeling, where we find people who want to come to Nevada to mountain bike and rock climb and find their friends online.

What misconceptions do people have about Nevada?

People simply don’t know what we have. They think desert, not high desert. They think flat terrain. They don’t know we are the most mountainous state in the lower 48. They think the Strip, not Red Rock. It’s just a lack of knowledge.

What’s your favorite ghost town?

Grantsville. I took a dirt road and came across it. I don’t even think Grantsville is on maps. I feel like I discovered it.

What is Nevada’s weirdest site?

Natural wonder: Diana’s Punchbowl. It is stunning and naturally occurring. It blows me away. I thought I was in the desert, then I see a giant, boiling natural pot of water.

Manmade: the Little A ‘Le’ Inn Restaurant and Bar in Rachel. The landscape is like being on the moon, and you’re on the “Alien Highway” near Area 51. People want to go home with stories about sitting next to a trucker with an alien sighting story. That’s what you get there.

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