Friday, Jan. 29, 2010 | 3 a.m.
Like most tourism marketers, the Nevada Tourism Commission is doing what it can to get a maximum bang for its advertising bucks.
When Tourism Director Dann Lewis told the commission’s marketing committee last week that room tax revenue is coming in well below projections, he also offered a strategy to draw attention to the media channels that traditionally have driven increased visitation to the state.
That basic strategy is to dazzle a viewer or reader with something visually amazing to reel them in and get one of the state’s visitor guides in their hands.
For the spring and summer ad campaign, the state will spend $1.3 million — a pittance when you consider that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, for example, spends more than 50 times that amount in a year and at least 10 times that in any given ad campaign.
The state’s target market is the ages of 25 to 54, has a household income in excess of $75,000 a year, is married, is a travel adventure enthusiast, is young at heart and is seeking new and extraordinary experiences.
The market focus is in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Salt Lake City and Phoenix. State officials also like to advertise Northern Nevada attractions in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada destinations in Reno.
Of the $1.3 million it has to spend, the plan is to purchase $825,000 on traditional television ad buys, $405,000 on Internet sites and $99,500 in ads in National Geographic Traveler, Nevada Magazine and Southwest Airlines’ in-flight publication, Southwest Spirit.
The state’s tourism marketers also plan to spend $22,500 on mobile search engine marketing platforms — something they have had surprising success with during the ski season.
No money is being spent, but in-house efforts are under way to publicize the state in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other blog sites.
The ad buy decisions were based on research conducted by Google.com. The strategy the state is using will attempt to drive television and online viewers and print publication readers to the state’s tourism Web site, travelnevada.com, where prospective tourists can order a travel guide that offers comprehensive details on Nevada destinations, including information on food and lodging and the state’s many attractions.
So what would be Nevada’s signature attraction that would grab the attention of those people who spot the ad on a page or as a banner on a Web site?
Keep in mind that the commission’s primary responsibility is to publicize the state’s rural destinations. Commissioners rightfully believe that Las Vegas has the LVCVA and Reno has the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority to market those cities. Rural communities don’t have the budget or resources to publicize attractions in their areas.
So even if a dazzling photo of the Strip says, “This is what a trip to Nevada is all about,” it’s not going to show up in one of the state’s ads.
But there are still plenty of scenic wonders in every corner of Nevada.
Would the marketing committee choose a scenic shot of the forests around Lake Tahoe on a bright blue summer afternoon?
Or possibly some people enjoying mountain biking in Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains outside Elko?
Maybe some bristlecone pine trees near one of the glaciers at Great Basin National Park? How about rock climbing on the sandstone cliffs of Red Rock Canyon or hiking among the red bluffs and petroglyphs at Valley of Fire State Park?
You could even make a case for featuring water sports at Lake Mead or the eerie rock formations of Cathedral Gorge State Park.
But the image chosen to be the grabber is a photo of a place most Nevadans have never seen and, I would guess, never heard of and probably couldn’t locate on a map.
It’s Fly Geyser.
Located on the privately held Fly Ranch in the Black Rock Desert, best known as the site of the annual Burning Man Festival, Fly Geyser is visible off State Route 447 near Gerlach, but it is fenced off behind a padlocked gate.
Doran Sanchez, chief of communications for the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada, said the owner of the property offers tours two or three times a year of the geyser, a man-made geologic oddity.
Several sources say somebody drilled a hole at the site in an effort to develop some of the geothermal energy of the area in the 1960s and heated water erupted from the drill site.
No one tried to cap the leak and the water erupts continuously.
Because the water is filled with minerals, rock mounds built up over time and chemical composition of the water and surrounding terrain have made it an unusually colorful attraction.
There’s no question that it’s an attention grabber. The problem I have with it is that when I see something stunning in a magazine, it makes me want to see the place up close and in person. When people see a picture of Fly Geyser in National Geographic Traveler or Southwest Spirit, wouldn’t it be disappointing to learn that it’s way off the beaten trail and if you have the wherewithal to get there and find it, you can only see it from the highway?
Sanchez said the BLM has no plans to try to acquire the land around Fly Geyser and the state doesn’t have the resources to turn it into a park.
But unless the commission decides differently when it meets in March, a scenic site closed to the public will be the poster attraction in the state’s spring and summer ad campaigns.
McCarran International Airport’s passenger counts ended on a down note in 2009 with just more than 3 million passengers flying in and out in December.
The 2.1 percent decline for the month means the airport closes out the year with 8.2 percent fewer passengers in 2009 than it had a year earlier.
Southwest Airlines had a good month in December, but not enough to push it ahead of its 2008 total. The 15.6 million passengers recorded in 2009 was 1.1 percent below 2008 levels.
Of the five busiest carriers at McCarran, only American Airlines had more passengers than it had here in 2008, with the 2.2 million reported 5.3 percent ahead of last year’s total.
The biggest percentage decline was at No. 2 US Airways, down 34.9 percent to 4.7 million passengers.
Other big percentage increases in 2009 were reported by Canada-based WestJet, up 18.8 percent to 730,281 passengers; Virgin America, up 18.8 percent to 451,152; and Northwest Airlines, up
10 percent to 1.5 million. Northwest is merging operations with Delta Air Lines and if you combine their 2009 numbers against 2008, the merged company is up 0.2 percent to 3.8 million passengers.
Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air also had a healthy increase in passenger counts in 2009, increasing 6.2 percent to 1.8 million passengers, good enough to rank seventh among McCarran operators.