The once-hot casino-based travel market is providing no sure
jackpots these days but experts say resourceful agents still can
find plenty of sales opportunities.
In Las Vegas, for example, overall visitor numbers are virtually
flat this year compared to 2002. In addition, casinos have
increased their direct-to-consumer e-marketing, upping competition
But there are signs that Vegas remains popular non-gaming
business to the area is up nearly 2 percent so far this year.
Rosemarie Hughey, owner of Go Vegas First Class, says the
continuing airline industry slump has forced her to better
accommodate the “land only” traveler by offering more attractive
packages than what the hotel casinos are offering online.
“We’re talking considerable room discounts, two-for-one
breakfasts, children’s discounts and special deals on shows. People
are looking for more and more ‘What can you give me?’ It’s actually
starting to get out of hand.”
But such efforts are getting results.
After the lingering post-Sept. 11 slump, agents like Hughey are
seeing old clients returning, often asking to book a Vegas outing
around a road trip to the Grand Canyon, then a stay in
And the much-publicized Vegas attempt to go “kid-friendly” seems
to be fading away a development that is fast bringing back the old
“That’s good,” Hughey says. “The family thing only worked when
the economy was good. Now that it’s not, the families aren’t
traveling here as much. You have to keep changing and adapting.
That’s what we do, now, as we’re marketing packages and shows to
Ann Genovese, manager of Las Vegas-based Imperial Travel Inc.,
has developed a travel specialty niche to better serve customers,
as well as land new ones. Imperial Travel offers packages based on
the booming sport of stock car racing, as NASCAR has a Winston Cup
venue in Las Vegas.
“With the ‘land only’ customer, you have to be creative,”
Genovese says. “We do huge NASCAR packages: $2,000 for three or
four days, with tickets. Or they stay the whole week. ...Toss in
some show tickets and some buffets, and you can impress a customer
with some nice packages.
“With the resorts looking to market direct to the customer,
cutting us out in the process, you can’t just sell Vegas as a
gambling destination. It’s a raceway destination. It’s a honeymoon
destination. There’s an intriguing, romantic desert out there
that’s appealing to the romantic and the outdoorsman.”
Las Vegas tourism officials, however, say resorts are not
looking to cut agents out entirely, realizing that they are a
needed resource toward booking rooms and keeping the game tables
In fact, they say, resorts are now only just beginning to use
online and e-mail tools to better inform agents about date
availabilities and commissioned rates, as well as promoting events
to agents better.
For example, MGM Mirage is developing a travel agent
e-mail/direct mail service this summer.
Las Vegas properties are also providing comp room stays or
discounts during the week for agents who want to get to know the
Override commission rates generally are 15 to 18 percent.
“The properties are starting to realize that the travel agent is
still vital to their need for hotel bookings,” says Cam
Usher-Lincoln, director of tourism for the Las Vegas Convention and
“They now realize they aren’t going to be able to do it all
direct to the customer, all by themselves.”