Cities kick off new campaigns to draw visitors

Vegas is still hot. But like other convention and vacation destinations in the USA, it's bidding to keep tourist business in the face of current high-flying fuel prices and penny-pinching.

So the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority sent some of the city's famed showgirls on the road in a bid to bump up business.

The "Vegas Right Now" tour blitzed five cities last week — San Diego, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle and Chicago. Leggy showgirls in full makeup, boas, headdresses and sequins visited attractions and sporting events and gave away trips to Vegas on Southwest Airlines.

"I think every (tourist area) is feeling a little drop," says Erika Pope of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. "We're trying to get some extra love for Las Vegas." She doesn't have up-to-date tourist numbers yet, but she says the city is working hard to draw more business from "key feeder markets."

With the lucrative summer vacation season looming, other city and state tourist bureaus are playing the promotion card, too. A sampling:

•New York City's tourism and marketing arm — NYC & Company — is expanding its "Just Ask the Locals" campaign, initiated in 2007 in partnership with American Express. The campaign features new ads in which New York-based celebs such as Sean "Diddy" Combs and Kevin Bacon tout favorite locales and urge visitors to ask New Yorkers to share tips on what to see and do. Rapper/actor/business magnate Diddy suggests having a drink at the elegant Mandarin Oriental New York hotel for bird's-eye views of Central Park. Actor/musician Bacon recommends concerts at Rockwood Music Hall.

Ads featuring celebs can be seen at JFK airport (New York is banking on financially healthy foreign visitors these days), in taxis and bus shelters, and at Other participating stars include Robert De Niro, Julianne Moore, Matt Lauer and Ivanka Trump.

The goal of "Just Ask the Locals" is to "make the city more welcoming and easier to navigate," NYC & Company's George Fertitta says. Interactive maps and an expanded list of celebrity and local insider tips are on Visitors can offer their own finds and enter a sweepstakes to win a weekend for two in the city.

•Vermont, which gets most of its visitors in the summertime, is using a new promotion to court Floridians who may be looking to escape heat, humidity and hurricanes, says Erica Houskeeper of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. "They are a big market," she says. She says two dozen lodgings will offer special packages, discounts or baskets of Vermont products. Details will be posted on

•Philadelphia is readying a "Philly's More Summer Fun" hotel package that will come with a $50 American Express gift card that can be used for gas purchases. The promotion will run Memorial Day to Labor Day. Participating hotels are being finalized, but visitors can book on beginning May 23. Meanwhile, more than two dozen Philadelphia lodgings are continuing a program that offers free parking with a two-night stay.

Other tourism officials are whipping up summer incentives. Check the website of the city or state you plan to visit to see if a deal awaits.