Las Vegas Chamber joining US Travel Association

Tourists are seen at the entrance to Planet Hollywood on the Strip Thursday, April 28, 2011.

The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce is joining the board of directors of the U.S. Travel Association.

The association has led the charge on expanding the visa-waiver program, establishing a national tourism marketing company and, most recently, pressing for improvements in transportation infrastructure.

Kristin McMillan, president and CEO of the chamber, announced the planned membership at Tuesday’s Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority board of directors meeting.

It will be the first metropolitan chamber of commerce in the country to join U.S. Travel.

McMillan said the chamber would enter at the association member circle level, which gives it a seat on the organization’s board and enables it to participate in legislative lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

McMillan will be the chamber’s representative on the board and will attend its quarterly meetings.

She did not disclose the cost of the chamber’s annual membership.

McMillan said her interest in the organization soared when she attended its four-day Connecting America Through Travel conference in Washington in November.

“We’re all connected to our ability to have our tourists maintain a good experience while they are here,” McMillan said.

She added that improving mobility in Las Vegas is a key component toward attracting new business to Las Vegas and diversifying the economy.

Earlier in the meeting, Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis gave a report on how much time and money is wasted by tourists and Southern Nevada residents in traffic delays. Visitors wasted an average of 19 minutes a day in gridlock. Based on time wasted calculated at $18.88 an hour and the amount of fuel burned idling in traffic, Aguero estimated the loss at $242 million a year.

Because local residents spend more time driving, Aguero estimated that locals wasted $1.4 billion a year stuck in traffic.

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the LVCVA and a former chairman of the U.S. Travel board, said it is “very critical for us to have a voice on the federal government side on issues of travel and tourism.”

“Ten to 20 years ago, some of the views from cities were overlooked in the discussion of the issues. I think the chamber membership is a signal that business will be getting more involved in the discussion on transportation infrastructure,” he said.

The chamber joins McCarran International Airport as another local member of the U.S. Travel board. Rosemary Vassiliadis, Clark County’s director of aviation, recently was elected treasurer of the board.