LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — Representatives with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) gathered Tuesday morning at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign to hand out hundreds of T-shirts and ball caps to tourists as they waited in line for pictures next to the iconic landmark. The mission – say thanks to the tens of millions of visitors who are returning to Las Vegas at near pre-pandemic levels, now that COVID-19 travel restrictions have been lifted. That includes 3.3 million visitors in March alone.
And, according to LVCVA Senior VP of Communications, Lori Nelson-Kraft, the celebration is also a show of appreciation to the locals who work in the hospitality industry.
“It’s also a really great time to say thanks to the 260,000 plus frontline hospitality workers. They're the ones creating memorable experiences and only Vegas customer style service for all of our visitors,” she said.
Nelson-Kraft said Las Vegas is coming off a huge week of conventions including the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) capped off by hundreds of thousands of visitors in town for the NFL Draft.
“Commissioner Goodell says it was better than perfect.,” said Nelson-Kraft. “We all witnessed how fabulous Vegas put on a show together with the NFL. It's monumental.”
Another factor driving more tourists to Las Vegas is pent-up demand. “Thanks for opening up, Vegas,” said David Gonzalez from New York City. “We needed you badly.”
Gonzalez’s friend, John Ortega, said it’s been a while between Las Vegas visits.
“Last time I was here was 20-years ago. It was a blast. It felt even better to be back. it's so alive,” he said.
While international travel remains below pre-pandemic levels, it’s quickly picking up. And that was evident Tuesday around the Las Vegas icon, with visitors from Chile, Colombia, the U.K. and Germany. Also in the crowd, a dad from Turkey who decided to bring his 9 and 13-year-old son and daughter to Las Vegas to see it in person, after becoming fascinated with the city while watching the film, “Oceans 11.”
“It’s a very long trip, he said. “More than 15 hours from Turkey, but it's very exciting because it's another world. I want my children to see it – this kind of world, also,” he said.
Nelson-Kraft says the LVCVA is making strides toward a full recovery for international travel to Las Vegas. “International is on the road to recovery. Thanks to the efforts of many airline partners, we have full nonstop direct service from six different countries. We're starting to see the return,” she said.
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Efforts are also being made in Washington, D.C. along with the U.S. Travel Association to remove any remaining travel restrictions that m might cause delays with visa processing wait times, as well as testing requirements.
Additionally, “We've reopened our international offices to help market and sell Las Vegas, so we have a presence in Mexico and Canada, the UK and Germany,” said Nelson-Kraft.
She also said a major upcoming event will soon be added to an already impressive resume.
“Think about it. It was the draft and Pro Bowl this year. Next year, we're introducing Formula One to an international audience, and think about that worldwide exposure plus the visitation that we're going to anticipate. And then, on the heels of Formula One, we've got the Super Bowl coming in 2024.”
“It just shows the resilience of Vegas, the popularity and just the love,” Nelson-Kraft said. “We're hitting on all cylinders.”