The Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) was created in 1983 to enhance the competitive position of the state’s tourism industry by fostering an awareness of its scenic beauty, historic and cultural attractions and recreational opportunities. Chaired by the lieutenant governor, NCOT consists of eight commissioners appointed by the governor from the private sector and two ex-officio members representing the Las Vegas and Reno convention authorities, respectively.
One of NCOT’s many functions is to administer the Rural Grants Program, whose annual budget has increased from an original figure of $100,000 to $1,375,000 for 2001. The program helps rural communities pay for brochures, events, banners and other tools that stimulate awareness of visitor attractions in the vast area outside Nevada’s major cities.
There are two grant cycles each year. In all, 247 grant applications totaling over $2.2 million were received during the most recent grant cycle. At its June meeting, NCOT awarded $980,000 in grants to assist Nevada’s rural communities in their tourism marketing efforts. Grants were given to organizations such as the Boulder City and Laughlin Chambers of Commerce, the Pershing County Tourism Authority Board, the Nevada Northern Railroad Foundation and Tahoe Rim Trail Association. Applicants are non-profit organizations with the potential of putting “heads in beds” in rural Nevada.
With events being a driving force in motivating people to visit rural Nevada, the grant program has supported such successful events as the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko and the Shakespeare at Sand Harbor Festival at Incline Village. In this award cycle, it also supported events such as Salsa Y Salsas in Carson City. The event is already regionally popular, but the purpose of the grant is to market it to the Hispanic community in central California.
The Rural Grants Program also awards funding for marketing new events, in order to get them started. One such event is the Great Basin Festival, “Celebrating Our Heritage.” This special event in Elko features the cultures that make up the complexion of Nevada. It aims to bring visitors to Elko while educating them about different cultures and celebrating the diversity of the region.
In addition to special events, the rural grants program also supports advertising efforts. Lincoln County received a grant that included funding for its Web site, whichreceives over 3,000 hits a month. Lincoln County’s grant application stated that it gets more exposure and interest on the Internet than it did with printed brochures.
Some organizations, however, take great pride in their brochures. One such group is called Museums and Attractions in Nevada. It produces a piece that features information on all the facilities operated by its members. This multi-jurisdictional organization gives the potential visitor the opportunity to discover some of the non-gaming activities in Nevada.
According to Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, current NCOT chair, “Rural Nevada offers some of the great scenic wonders of the West, an exciting variety of outdoor recreation, as well as intriguing cultural and historic sites and events that reflect Nevada’s colorful heritage.”