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A different perspective on tourism in Reno

Global learning partnership with Monterrey Institute in Mexico yields insight into regional tourism efforts

Five years ago, the College of Business and the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM) in Chihuahua, Mexico, signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a global learning partnership. Since then, the institutions have exchanged knowledge and ideas through campus-to-campus interactions that continue to benefit the respective communities as exemplified by a Tourism Marketing class at the University.

Nathalie Desplas from the Monterrey Tech is teaching a Tourism Marketing class to a group of University students this summer. Desplas holds a doctorate in economics and is an internationally recognized tourism expert and consummate world traveler. She is currently using her expertise to educate her students on the nuances of marketing a city to tourists. In turn, her students are using their education to create fresh ideas to help the City of Reno market itself.

Desplas's students are creating proposals for attracting more tourists to Reno. Three groups are creating proposals using a variety of methods. The first group is surveying tourists about potential uses for the abandoned buildings downtown. Through informal discussions and a tourist poll, they are looking to generate ideas that match tourists' demands with local resources. The other two student groups are interviewing local hospitality and tourism professionals about their perception of tourists' desires and how to make Reno more attractive to them. Through this analysis of tourists themselves and a discussion with the industry that serves them, the students are trying to bridge the gap between demand and supply.

Thus far, the tourists who were polled and interviewed are looking for three primary improvements: more shopping, more bars and restaurants, and a higher degree of cleanliness. This is an interesting result considering the changes that have taken place and are planned to take place in the MidTown, Riverwalk and West 2nd Districts. This is exciting as it means that the development of local-friendly districts can serve to attract tourists as well. The poll results also provide a meaningful insight for local business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, as they indicate what business opportunities are available.

After one group interviewed a tourism and hospitality professional, they found that the tourism industry is targeting sources of revenue that are complementary to tourists' stated interests. Rather than solely looking towards gambling revenue, industry professionals are looking at patrons' participation in gambling, shopping, dining and entertainment to determine worthwhile target groups. The industry's shift in focus from gaming to the entirety of a tourist's experience bodes well for the local economy, as the pursuit of this broader focus could generate more revenue for Reno businesses and a cleaner, more vibrant community for locals.

The conclusion that Desplas's class is coming to, though not new, is encouraging. The newly developed businesses designed to serve locals can attract and garner revenue from tourists too. This is an exciting step on the way to changing tourism in Reno.


Jake Carrico is an MBA student in the University's College of Business. He is also a graduate assistant and business development advisor at the Nevada Small Business Development Center.

Jake Carrico

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