Vegas tourism: Embrace generational marketing

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LAS VEGAS (AP) - Baby boomers are suckers for appeals to their narcissism. Generation Xers can't stand their parents. And millennials want to feel like they're doing good in the world.

These aren't tired stereotypes. They're lessons marketing consultants say the Nevada tourism industry needs to start using if it wants to pull new customers into casinos.

Marketing consultant Chuck Underwood urged a room of executives and officials to think more critically about their patrons during the annual Nevada Governor's Conference on Tourism Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Visitor volume in Sin City has only recently bounced back after cratering during the recession.

A record number of visitors came to Las Vegas in 2012, but each one spent an average of just $1,021 per visit. In 2007, each visitor spent an average of $1,318.

Gambling revenue has been slower to rebound.

The conference, held at Red Rock Casino, focused on finding creative ways to lure new patrons.

Underwood, who heads a consulting firm specializing in generational study, suggested that the gambling industry might be in for a bumpy ride.

Gen Xers are just never going to be as into casinos as their parents, he said, and millennials are going to be broke for a long time to come.

He had better news about patrons in their 60s and 70, many of whom could be seen plugging slot machines on the gaming floor outside the conference room.

"With their zest for squeezing life of all of its satisfactions, baby boomers represent a golden opportunity for Nevada tourism," Underwood said.

He later cautioned against using a series of Baby Boomer trigger words, including "aging," "mature," and "golden years," as men and women in suits scribbled on notepads.

Casino bosses are devoting more and more resources to luring younger customers.

MGM Resorts International, which owns about a third of the major Strip casinos, is spending $100 million to build a park outside of its New York-New York and Monte Carlo hotel-casinos.

Caesars, which owns another third of Strip properties, is planning its own outdoor shopping and dining "district." That project, Linq, is anchored by a 550-foot-tall observation wheel slated to open in 2014.

Executives from both corporations say the new spaces will lure a younger, more social and outdoorsy group.

Underwood said Gen Xers might be more likely to come to Las Vegas to explore the striking rock formations outside of town.

"You're probably going to take a hit with this generation," he said.

Millennials, many of whom are still too young to set foot on a casino floor, sounded a bit more promising. Underwood advised executives to set up programs that reward 20-somethings for just showing up.

"It's not their fault. It's what they grew up with_ everybody got a trophy," he said.

Underwood also recommended tapping into the generation's patriotism and spirit of social involvement.

"They have been described as Generation Give, and there is an enormous opportunity for you in this," he said.

After the talk, several members of the audience could be heard defending their generation to a group of older or younger people.

Gov. Brian Sandoval was expected to deliver his annual address to the tourism industry later in the day.


Hannah Dreier can be reached at

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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