Korean Air's successful flights celebrated in Vegas

24 September 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Las Vegas tourism officials view Korean Air as more than just the only carrier offering direct flights between Asia's mainland and Las Vegas. The airline provides the vital link that connects the populous Pacific Rim region with Southern Nevada.

So executives from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and McCarran International Airport didn't mind taking time late Wednesday afternoon to help Korean Air officials celebrate the fourth anniversary of the airline's thrice-weekly flights that have carried more than 221,000 travelers between Las Vegas and Seoul, South Korea.

Terry Jicinsky, the convention authority's senior vice president of operations, said growth initiatives are under way to help the airline branch out to other Asian destinations and provide other connections between Las Vegas and the Pacific Rim.

"It is the economy of scale," Jicinsky said. "We're not talking about hundreds of potential visitors, but hundreds of thousands of potential visitors. We believe that over time there are potential growth opportunities for emerging markets."

Jicinsky said international travel is a focus of the convention authority sales staff, especially the Pacific Rim. He said visitation from Japan, China and South Korea are considered the top-tier countries because of the size of the potential audience.

According to the convention authority, international travelers spend some $950 per trip, about $400 more per trip than the average Las Vegas visitor. Foreign visitors also remain in town for more than four days, nearly one full day longer than domestic travelers.

Those factors -- and not just the opportunity to tour the ultraluxury first class and business sections of one of Korean Air's Boeing 747-400 jumbo airliners -- are why Las Vegas tourism officials helped Korean Air celebrate the anniversary.

Visitors from the Asian mainland use the airline to reduce their travel times to Las Vegas. Rather than flying from one Asian city into another U.S. market, such as New York or Chicago, to make a Las Vegas connection, travelers can connect to Las Vegas via Seoul's Incheon International Airport.

"It actually reduces the travel time and gives our visitors more time in the destination," Jicinsky said.

John Jackson, Korean Air's Americas Marketing Director, said the airline has seen an increase in passenger traffic from Korea to Las Vegas because of new U.S./Korean visa waiver program. Jackson said passengers from China and other parts of Southeast Asia use Korean Air to connect into Las Vegas.

"This is a key market for us," Jackson said, adding the airline might consider adding more flights to Las Vegas.

"We always go into a market with the idea of adding additional flights," Jackson said. "That was our plan when we began our Las Vegas service four years ago."

McCarran is expanding it potential for international travel in 2012 when the $2.4 billion Terminal 3 opens. International air service will move to the new facility, two gates will be added to give McCarran six arrival points, and a larger 22-lane U.S. Customs and Border Protection Model Port will make it easier for travelers to clear customs.

"International travel has become increasingly important to this community, and Korean Air has been a phenomenal partner," Clark County Deputy Director of Aviation Rosemary Vassiliadis said.

Korean Air's service to Las Vegas is direct from Seoul. Return trips to Seoul stop through Los Angeles International Airport. Another Asian carrier, Philippine Air, flies four times per week to Manila but with an initial stop in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Jicinsky and other tourism leaders believe access is one of the more important ways to bring the average Asian traveler to Las Vegas.

Strip resorts have shown in the past year they haven't had trouble filling their high-end suites with big-spending Asian gamblers who favor baccarat. According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, more than $5.34 billion has been wagered on baccarat on the Strip through July, an increase of 33 percent compared with a year ago. Casinos won $576.2 million from the game during the time, up 28 percent.

That's not the customer, however, tourism leaders have their sights focused on.

"It's people traveling through the United States for the experience of seeing the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Ocean, national parks and Las Vegas," Jicinsky said. "It's the incentive to connect the second-tier markets in Asia through Korean Air to Las Vegas. We need to fill the thousands of hotel rooms here and that's why we're excited about this partnership."

Related Links
Nevada Online Gambling
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Gaming Vendor Information

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