Bringing Convention Business to Reno-Sparks-Tahoe - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Bringing Convention Business to Reno-Sparks-Tahoe

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Having enough convention visitors can turn a flat month into a jackpot, especially now with more gamblers staying and playing in California. But 2014 is looking good when it comes to these big shows. Of that 49% increase in booked rooms we reported yesterday, 63% comes from new business. One company just signed a deal to host 4 sports tournaments, booking close to 23,000 room nights.

But this year, Reno also lost one of the big ones when the Safari Club took its 20 million tourist dollars to Las Vegas. As Christopher Baum of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority told us, it was unavoidable: "They outgrew the space we had at the Convention Center, and they grew internationally in terms of their attendance. When you have a lot of people coming in from Johannesburg and Tokyo, getting to Reno is an extra flight after getting to Las Vegas."

When conventions like that leave, it’s his job to find new ones…and the search never stops. As he told us, "It’s really a matter of making a pitch that gets you in front of the decision maker, and then making a compelling proposal that gets them to sign on the dotted line."

Some organizers are already sold. Curtis Fong wants to bring more endurance sports events to town…he thinks Reno-Tahoe is perfect for them: "It’s got a relatively good altitude that’s not too high, consistent weather, and the area does lend itself to adventure rides, running events, you name it."

Eric Lerude’s company “Race 178” already brings the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey to town...that attracts 3,000 runners. He could bring more for other events, if some misconceptions were overcome. As he told us, "Obviously the town's got a reputation with some people. We have to tell them, it's actually a beautiful place to come visit, it’s a great place to come see!"

Back at the Visitors Authority, Chris Baum is dealing with another unfair misconception: "The current administration made some statements about government meetings shouldn't be held in resort locations a couple of years ago, and we've never fully recovered from those statements." He told us many government meetings are now held in more traditional cities like Atlanta, so they won’t attract the scrutiny that past affairs drew when they were held in sunny, resort-like Nevada. Reno used to enjoy 50,000 room nights of government meetings per year. Now it’s down to less than 10,000…no thanks to those negative comments from the White House.

Another challenge: overcoming the shrinking direct flights to Reno. As Baum told us, "The airline model has changed. Short haul is out, long haul is in, and they'll move planes around to maximize in a way they've never done before."

But Eric Lerude is adamant…with what we have, you can overcome just about anything. We just have to get the word out…and show them. As he put it, "When they see where our course takes them, they go, 'Wow, we didn't know there's a river through Reno!’ It’s like, yeah, we know, there's a river through Reno..."


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