Nevada looks beyond gaming dollars |

Nevada looks beyond gaming dollars

Nevada Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt speaks at a news confrence Tuesday Dec. 10, 2002, in Reno, where is was announced ESPN plans to bring the 2003 Great Outdoor Games to the Reno-Lake Tahoe area July 10-13. The move, local tourism officials said Tuesday, will fortify efforts to promote northern Nevada as a world-class destination for outdoor adventure. (AP Photo/Reno Gazette-Journal, Liz Margerum)

RENO — Nevada’s tourism industry has responded strongly since the terrorist attacks and is outperforming the national economy, though it still faces many challenges, Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt said Tuesday.

“I feel very confident and very bullish about the future of tourism in Nevada. The best is yet to come,” Hunt said in a welcoming speech to the 19th annual Nevada Conference on Tourism.

The conference theme, “Putting Adventure Back in Tourism,” goes with efforts to promote Nevada as a world-class destination for outdoor activities — from golfing and skiing to hiking and mountain biking — in addition to casino gambling, she said.

“Today, we are facing some challenging times,” Hunt said.

“No doubt, Sept. 11 was a wake-up call. We realize now more than ever that we have to diversify so we are not totally dependent on gaming,” she said.

“We are still way ahead of the national economy. Our governor had to cut spending 3 percent. But other states are having to cut 17 or 15 or 12 percent,” she said.

Skip Sayre, vice president for marketing at Harrah’s and Harveys Lake Tahoe, said he likes the new push for adventure.

“We’re in a new era. It’s a challenging world for tourism,” he said.

“We need innovation, risk and adventure in our marketing approach if we are to maintain Nevada’s position in the industry.”

Hunt said the fear of competition from tribal casinos in California reminds her of the predictions of doom when casinos went up on the boardwalk in Atlantic City 25 years ago.

“Everyone said that was the end of Nevada. But it wasn’t. We reinvented ourselves,” she said.

“You can go to Indian gaming casinos. But Nevada is the only place you can come and enjoy a myriad of adventures. … We are marketing the state, finally, as a whole.”

Hunt said the state also is putting new emphasis on attracting international travelers, especially in Asia.

She said she plans a trip in March to China to spark additional interest in Nevada.

“Now, since 9-11, some of the people who weren’t our best friends now are our friends,” she said.

Hunt gave the opening speech in place of Gov. Kenny Guinn. She said the governor was busy with other duties but didn’t elaborate.

The conference continues through Wednesday with a State of the Gaming address from Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association and former Nevadan.

Industry leaders said it is important to pool their efforts.

“It has been a really turbulent time in our industry and in our economy,” said Punam Mathur, vice president of corporate diversity and community relations for MGM Mirage in Las Vegas.

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