Nevada is expanding its efforts to attract international tourism, sending a delegation to the 2016 SATTE travel trade show in New Delhi in late January. Announcing the opening of a new TravelNevada tourism office in India, Lt. Governor Mark Hutchinson revealed that the Silver State currently receives 6.5% of inbound Indian tourism into the US, ranking India as one of the state’s top ten tourist sources, and has hopes to attract even more to support its large tourism and gaming industry. Run by Sartha Global but contracted to the Nevada government, the representative office will complement the eight other countries around the world in which the state also has representatives, including Australia and South Korea in the Asia Pacific region.
The decision to invest in boosting Indian tourism into the state comes on the back of new statistics showing that the top motivator for Indian travel to the US stems from family visitation. With 19% of Indian immigrants living in California, particularly the San Francisco Bay Area, the Nevada government has an opportunity to advertise for short-stay trips to cities such as Las Vegas or the nearby Reno area, which includes historic Virginia City. This could also be bolstered by Air India’s decision to open a new Delhi-San Francisco route, the first of its kind to the US west coast. The recent State of the International Traveler report indicated that 59% of surveyed Indians expect to travel internationally in the next year, demonstrating the significant potential if more of those travelers can be brought in.
The tourism and gaming industry is vital to Nevada’s economy. In 2014, it employed over 399,000 people to serve almost 53 million visitors who contributed $24 billion in gross revenue from hotels and casinos alone. Indian tourists have already proven an interest in locations with legal gambling, as Macau welcomed 1.67 million Indians to the Chinese special administrative region in 2014, partly thanks to the ease of obtaining visas on arrival. India’s restrictions on gambling, where only three cities allow legal gambling, mean that both Macau and Nevada represent attractive hubs of legal gambling and gaming. With its new outreach to the Indian tourist market, Nevada clearly sees its efforts as a solid investment and not as a gamble.
Edward Chang is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the University of Sydney.