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Las Vegas to host prestigious 2011 global travel summit


File photo

A tram passes by the Aria resort at CityCenter.

Updated Tuesday, April 13, 2010 | 2:10 p.m.

A prestigious world tourism conference that local leaders are calling "the Olympics of the tourism industry" will meet in Las Vegas next year, bringing hundreds of government dignitaries and industry professionals to the Strip.

The London-based World Travel & Tourism Council announced today that the 11th annual Global Travel & Tourism Summit would be conducted at CityCenter's Aria resort May 15-19, 2011.

The organization's announcement coincided with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority board of directors' unanimous vote at this morning's meeting to commit $1.5 million to sponsor the event. LVCVA officials say they expect to recoup the entire amount through event sponsorships.

"The support from members for Las Vegas has been overwhelming as the LVCVA submitted such an excellent bid," Jean-Claude Baumgarten, president and CEO of the WTTC, said in a statement issued today.

While only 1,000 people are expected to attend the summit in 2011, the caliber of the delegation is what is significant. The WTTC includes the chairmen, chairwomen and chief executive officers of the top 100 travel and tourism companies in the world. In addition, government dignitaries from several countries are a part of the council and will attend.

The 2011 event will mark only the second time the summit is being staged in North America. Previous summits have been held in Brazil, Dubai, Portugal, India and Qatar and this year's event next month will be in Beijing.

In the only other summit in North America, held in Washington in 2006, four members of President Bush's Cabinet attended.

LVCVA President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter gave a presentation in the 2006 summit and at that time made inquiries about the prospect of Las Vegas playing host to the event. The LVCVA began the formal application process two years ago, convincing the governing board that the United States and specifically Las Vegas would be suitable hosts for the 2011 event.

The summit is expected to be a big boost to Southern Nevada's $30 billion tourism industry and its estimated 235,000 employees.

Ralenkotter said the selection of Las Vegas is significant because it acknowledges that the city is regarded as a top business destination as well as a leading tourism destination worldwide. Travel and tourism industry journalists will cover the summit and Ralenkotter expects Las Vegas will get additional publicity as a result.

At the Beijing event in May, Ralenkotter will be joined by Chuck Bowling, an MGM Mirage executive on the LVCVA board, and Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Mirage, to meet with WTTC leaders and begin planning the Las Vegas summit.

"We are honored each day to welcome guests from around the world," Murren said in a statement. "To be able to host this distinguished group of travel industry leaders is an especially exciting opportunity for all of us at MGM Mirage."

At this morning's LVCVA board meeting, members voted unanimously to authorize spending $1.5 million to sponsor the summit, one of the largest sponsorship amounts the board has considered. The $1.5 million includes a $500,000 WTTC sponsorship fee, $660,000 for food and hospitality functions, $100,000 for registration, security and staffing, $100,000 for production and entertainment, $90,000 for destination exposure and tours and $50,000 for transportation.

The LVCVA is considered the summit host and Aria would serve as the headquarters property. The Washington-based U.S. Travel Association, of which the LVCVA is a member, also plans to take an active role as a national partner for the event.

Ralenkotter said the summit operates on a break-even financial model and that historically, companies have stepped up to reimburse the sponsoring host committee But the host committee is responsible for the difference between sponsorship funds raised and the actual expenditures.

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