NPR Story
4:21 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

Las Vegas Markets To Mexico For Independence Weekend

Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport received the largest crowd of travelers from Mexico it has likely ever seen this past weekend.

Visitors came to town in anticipation of the 203rd anniversary of Mexico's Independence Day. The actual holiday, referred to as "El Grito" meaning "the shout" is Sept. 16. Boxing fans also showed up for the big fight between the undefeated Las Vegas local Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Mexico's young boxing star Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.

Chris Jones is the Manager of Public Affairs and Marketing at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. He says the airport witnessed never-before-seen numbers of travelers from Mexico this weekend.

"Unofficially, this was the biggest crowd to come through from outside of the country in the airport's history," Jones said.

Jones said "unofficially" because the airport has not tracked travelers for every single day of the year. Also, McCarran Airport officials have to wait until the major hotel casinos report their numbers to have an exact calculation of people who were in town from Mexico for the weekend.

However, he said the airport's U.S Customs and Border Protection Officers reported this was the largest number of people to come through the airport's new terminal, and most of those people were from Mexico.

Jones says before the new terminal opened last June, the airport would not have been able to accommodate these kinds of numbers. On Thursday and Friday there were 37 flights from Mexico, about 6,000 people. On a normal Thursday and Friday Jones said they get about 15 flights.

About 8 percent of the city's nearly 40 million visitors were of Latino descent last year.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said it has been marketing Las Vegas as a destination for the Mexican Independence Day weekend both in the U.S. and Mexico.

"Mexico is our number two feeder market, behind Canada. Most of our visitors are from the U.S., then Canada and then Mexico. In 2012 we saw more than 4,000 people come from Mexico via air only. That doesn't count any visitors who may have driven up. We have also recently returned to advertising on television in Mexico. We have a spot running there right now that's part of the 'What Happens Here, Stays Here' Campaign," said spokesperson Courtney Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald said in general the city has seen an increase in flights from Mexico.

This past June the Mexican Consulate in Las Vegas welcomed Julián Adem as its new leader. In an interview on KNPR's State of Nevada, Adem said one of the goals for his tenure is to encourage more tourism to Mexico from Nevada. He also noted the high numbers of travelers from Mexico to Las Vegas and that he wants to urge people from the U.S. to visit less-known parts of Mexico.

As part of the marketing efforts by Las Vegas, there was a legendary list of Latino singers in the city for the big weekend. Mexican-American singer Lila Downs played Friday night at the House of Blues in the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. That same night, in the same casino, Marco Antonio Solís performed, and Saturday night Enrique Iglesias was at Mandalay. Salsa superstar Marc Anthony performed at the Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort.

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