Showgirls, Elvis impersonators magnets for Las Vegas

Erik Kabik/

Oscar Goodman kicks off the 2012 pool season at Wet Republic at MGM Grand on Friday, March 9, 2012.

When the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority goes on the road to tourism trade shows, showgirls and Elvis impersonators are the magnets that draw people away from the likes of New York and Orlando.

And so does former Mayor Oscar Goodman.

Goodman, now the head of the LVCVA’s Host Committee, makes appearances at shows and welcomes conventioneers to any opening event to which sponsors invite him.

It’s old-hat schtick for Las Vegans who are used to seeing the former mayor with a showgirl on each arm and a martini glass in hand. But for people intrigued with the city, Goodman — who is paid $60,000 a year to lead the committee — and his entourage are iconic symbols of Las Vegas.

Goodman gave a sampling of what he does at Tuesday’s meeting of the LVCVA board of directors.

He said the purpose of the committee is to engage the business community on the importance of tourism to the local economy and to roll out the red carpet for those attending special events and conventions.

Host committee members include representatives of the Nevada Resort Association, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Fremont Street Experience and McCarran International Airport. Some private businesses also are members — mall owner General Growth Properties, Nevada State Bank and Southern Wine and Spirits.

The organization has recruited more than 500 “ambassadors” to make visitors feel welcome in Las Vegas. Representatives of the organization have attended more than 20 major events, from the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament to the Electric Daisy Carnival.

Backers say most of their best work occurs at out-of-town trade shows.

“They work from sunup to sundown,” said Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, a member of the LVCVA board who recently traveled with an authority contingent to South America.

Their primary job is to draw attention to Las Vegas, and they do it just by being there. Goodman and the showgirls have posed for thousands of pictures since the formation of the committee, which receives $200,000 in funding a year from the LVCVA.

“One of the things I noticed in Brazil was just how competitive it is out there,” Weekly said. “If we’re going attract more people, we have to step our game up.”

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