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Reno tourism officials have high hopes in wake of Tesla

Washoe County saw its highest average daily rate for hotel rooms ever last month, and Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that tourism experts are expecting even more dollars to come in as word about the state's Tesla "win" continues to spread.

The average daily price for a hotel room in the county last month was just shy of $104. That's a nearly 4 percent increase from the same month last year, which means room tax revenues grew by more than $260,000 year-over-year. A big chunk of that money goes to the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority for marketing the region.

CEO Chris Baum is encouraged by the increase but says local hotels could stand to raise their prices even higher.  

"I have to say our rates are far lower than any other market we compete against, both for conventions and also for tourists," Baum explains. "My take on it is that we could raise our rates another ten dollars easily and still be a great value compared to the rest of the country. This new record rate [is] still below what the average rate is for the country for the entire year."

Baum credits last month's success to the region's special events line-up, especially the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, which he says brings in an upscale clientele. Hot August Nights introduced that event last year.

As Baum and his team try to attract other large events and conventions, he says landing Tesla's gigafactory could be a game changer for tourism, finally putting Reno on the map for many organizations nationwide.

"Even if not you're not a high tech industry or association," Baum says, "[they'll] still say 'Wow, good things are happening in that area of the country, and I've never really heard that much about it.' It puts us on people's radar screens who have never had us there before."

According to Baum, the attraction could be even greater for high-tech industries that were already starting to notice Nevada last year when it was chosen as a test site for unmanned aerial vehicles:

"Now, if you're an engineering society or some sort of scientific group, those guys are geeks who are interested in actually seeing the factory and learning the technologies, and maybe in the back of their mind it's like 'Well we should host our convention out there in 2018 because we can take all of our attendees over for a factory tour and isn't that a great thing they can experience.'"

The visitors authority says this week it'll announce another annual special event that's headed to the region that will extend the area's event line-up further into the fall season.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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