he company has refurbished and will rededicate this month an ornate shrine to the Hindu god Brahma — a symbol of good fortune — that has fronted Caesars for more than two decades. It has opened restaurants with traditional foreign fare, including Ginseng 3 at Imperial Palace and Beijing Noodle No. 9 at Caesars, which has recently expanded its service to 24 hours on weekends because of demand, and the Krug Room at Caesars’ Restaurant Guy Savoy — a private dining room similar to those in Asia and Europe where customers can taste Krug champagne.
The company signed a one-year contract with Japanese musical production “Matsuri” at Imperial Palace, Chinese singer Hins Cheung will headline Caesars for Thanksgiving and Mexican singer Luis Miguel will be back at Caesars for Mexican Independence Day weekend. But Harrah’s thinks it can do better in drawing international tourists — by focusing on where they live.
Harrah’s, which already boasts the biggest and most envied customer list in the casino business, has signed a deal with a global marketing company to pitch Harrah’s Strip properties to travel agents, tour operators and business groups in foreign countries.
Discover the World Marketing, which drums up foreign business for major airlines and hotel companies, functions much like the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s handful of foreign branch offices. Instead of selling all of Las Vegas, Discover’s more than 450 marketers in 83 offices in 55 countries will sell the virtues of Harrah’s seven major Las Vegas properties to foreign travel agencies that package vacations and business trips.
Among Discover’s goals: drumming up travelers for gatherings around lesser-known foreign holidays that Americans don’t celebrate.
Las Vegas hotels are filling rooms with penny-pinching tourists in place of the expense account-wielding business travelers who flocked here before the recession. More than ever, hotels need to attract more business from foreign customers, who typically spend more time and money in Las Vegas, hotel experts say.
Although total visitor volume is down 7 % through June, the number of passengers arriving or departing to international destinations is about the same so far this year, according to the latest tourism figures. Last year, that accounted for about 15 % of visitors coming to Las Vegas.
Foreign customers stayed an average of 4.5 nights last year, a full day longer than domestic visitors, and spent about us$ 600 more than domestic travelers, excluding gambling. “It’s a great untapped market,” said Jeff Voyles, a casino management professor at UNLV.
Using a third party for mass marketing in foreign countries is unusual for major casinos, which have long had marketing offices in foreign countries to cultivate high-rollers rather than drum up new business, Voyles said. Competitor MGM Mirage says it cultivates direct relationships with foreign travel agents and tour operators in addition to its casino marketing offices.
Boosting foreign tourism won’t be an easy task because the masses have less money to spend than their high rolling counterparts, as well as lots of nearby vacation options, Voyles said. Besides having to cope with a cumbersome visa process, some foreign tourists can’t enjoy bargains on rooms, food and entertainment if it costs too much to get here, he said.
Discover the World marketers, with more than a decade of experience in their home countries, can smooth hiccups in the planning process and ensure that travel agents are packaging the best available deals and highlighting attractions with particular local appeal, company CEO Jenny Adams said.
While it lacks many direct flights from foreign countries, Las Vegas has plenty of reasonably priced, one-stop airline capacity to handle foreign customers, said Mike Boyd of Boyd Group International, an independent airline consultant in Colorado.
While struggling domestic airlines have cut several routes to and from Las Vegas, international air service has increased slightly, as additional flights from Canada have offset losses in Mexico, the United Kingdom and Germany, according to recent airport data. What Las Vegas needs even more than incremental flights is more aggressive marketing to foreign tourists, who may not perceive Las Vegas as a value, Boyd said.