Travel Nevada, the state agency responsible for the promotion of tourism— Nevada’s leading economic engine— relies on close relationships with elected officials, other state and regional agencies, and its partners within the industry to continue the growth of tourism in the state. Funded by lodging tax revenue, it’s critical for legislators to understand that our state’s largest industry is tourism. Without funding from the taxpayers, Travel Nevada would not be able to promote our entire state as a top-tier tourism destination.
Travel Nevada needed to help lawmakers and other influencers understand the importance of the tourism industry in creating jobs, driving the economy and strengthening the Nevada brand in global markets, especially during a legislative year (the Nevada legislature meets every other year for a 120-day session). These educational efforts have become even more important with the evolution of consumer behaviors and the development of new travel trends.
As a state agency Travel Nevada is not legally able to lobby legislators, and must rely on educational outreach only. This means utilizing strategic public affairs tactics to inform decision-makers about the value of tourism – an industry often seen as frivolous and not as the economic workhorse it truly is.
In order to fully capture the attention of legislators, Travel Nevada developed a public affairs campaign titled “Tourism Means More.” For the 2019 legislative session, The Abbi Agency was contracted to oversee and provide strategy for a variety of programs leading up to and continuing through the 120-day legislative session. A bulk of the planning centered around Tourism Day, a day devoted to sharing the key economic impacts of tourism with legislators. The Tourism Means More campaign was multi-faceted and involved months of education and meetings with legislators.
Increase legislator and elected official awareness of Travel Nevada’s smart efforts in bringing tourism dollars to the state. Awareness and support ensured the continued protection of Travel Nevada’s budget, which continues to provide a thriving economic engine for the state.
Understanding the goals of the campaign, Travel Nevada continued the evolution of the campaign called “Tourism Means More.” The integrated marketing initiative combined a grasstops engagement strategy with the creative use of media resources. The focused communications strategy began with the definition of the grasstops audience which included legislators, policymakers, media influencers, and industry leaders. The Abbi Agency, the Department’s PR agency, arranged the Travel Nevada commissioners and leaders to participate in key legislative meetings during the months before the start of the legislative session to lay the groundwork for a productive session.
At the beginning of Nevada’s 80th legislative session, our teams hosted a “Tourism Day” event to educate legislators on the importance of tourism to the state. Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall was contacted and agreed to deliver a keynote speech at this event, followed by a representative from the U.S. Travel Association who spoke on the importance of tourism as a whole to the United States. In addition, Travel Nevada invited a tourism partner from one of the state’s rural communities to share what tourism means to her and her town. To engage legislators, we delivered save the date invitations followed by electronic invitations, and executed pre-planned social media posts to stress the importance of tourism as a key economic indicator for the state. In addition to inviting legislators to Tourism Day, the division also invited the industry in order to give them the opportunity to meet their representatives face-to-face and show their support for the tourism industry.
Following the morning activities, the group then participated in the Nevada Senate and Assembly floor sessions during the day to show the broad support of the industry.
The week leading up to Tourism Day, we worked with Nevada’s Department of Public Works to hang a banner across the main thoroughfare to the Capitol Building. The banner shared the number of jobs generated due to tourism to Nevada. Local media was invited and attended Tourism Day, resulting in earned media coverage.
Further during the legislative session, we hosted the media in Reno for an event to familiarize them with Travel Nevada’s mission to encourage Nevadans to explore their state, resulting in immediate earned media via radio and television interviews.
During the U.S. Travel Association-sponsored National Travel & Tourism Week, Travel Nevada delivered pizza with stats about the state’s tourism impacts to legislative reporters to educate them about Nevada’s tourism industry. In addition, local restaurants in the area that were known to attract legislators for lunch were approached and asked to display table tents that highlighted tourism-related statistics. In total, eight restaurants agreed to participate in this initiative. Also during National Travel & Tourism Week, we engaged with the Governor, resulting in him signing a proclamation for National Travel & Tourism Week. In addition, the team reached out to Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall to author an opinion piece that The Abbi Agency placed in the Nevada Independent, a highly acclaimed statewide publication widely read by legislators and legislative staff.
Throughout the 80th legislative session, we coordinated regular engagement with elected officials via an electronic newsletter. Topics included the division’s activities to promote tourism to the state, key statistics and high-level information about Travel Nevada and its mission.
We also used this time as an opportunity to share the 2018 Travel Nevada Annual Report with legislators and other stakeholders.
Although the campaign was delivered across a wide front of earned, owned and shared mediums, message discipline — “tourism is a key economic driver” — remained tightly focused.
The “Tourism Means More” campaign delivered on its immediate goal – the continued support of Travel Nevada as an economic development tool during the 2019 legislative session. Equally important, the campaign established a framework for ongoing education of the state’s leaders and influencers about the importance of tourism as a driver of economic activity in Nevada. The framework included a plan that spanned multiple years of legislative outreach, content creation and media outreach.
While the immediate accomplishment might be measured in state appropriations, the value of the campaign arises from its long-lasting, deep-rooted education of the state’s public- and private-sector leadership.