A View from the Testbed — Travel & Hospitality Tech making a home in Nevada

As a travel market Nevada is extraordinary in respect of the scale and focus on the industry. There are many large travel destinations around the world. Although most do not boast the breadth of travel experiences combined with the level of economic impact in a condensed location.

Travel in the state comprises airlines, rental transportation, trains, hotels, resorts, conventions, tours, activities, outdoor, food, beverage, sports, entertainment, cannabis and gaming in the traditional sense and the more recent entrant of e-Sports.

E-Sports Arena at MGM’s The Luxor

Travel by the numbers

42 million travelers visit Las Vegas alone each year based upon current statistics.

More people visit Las Vegas each month than live in the state of Nevada.

McCarran International Airport

The geographic origin of visitors represent the full spectrum of US domestic travelers as well as 6.5 million international visitors from all continents arriving directly or through other US ports of entry.

There are in excess of 240,000 people working in the various industry sub-sectors that provide the travel experience to those visitors.

Travel as an industry contributes 35% of the Nevada GDP.

When the extended impact of travel is factored, up to USD 58 Billion in spending, impacting the employment of 390,000 people or 40% of the workforce.

Hughes Corporations Summerlin — a planned residential community in Las Vegas

Living in Nevada

Stepping out of the office, Nevada has an enviable lifestyle combining world class entertainment and some of the most iconic outdoor destinations in the United States within 30 minutes to a two or four hour drive away. The Grand Canyon, Lake Tahoe, Death Valley, Yosemite and Zion to name a few.

The state has some of the best weather in the United States. Yes, it’s hot in Summer, but people are not living in tents here.

Beatles Love by Cirque du Soleil

In fact there is an attractive housing market when compared to many other locations and an enviable cost of living beyond housing, as well as no state income tax.

Reno housing
Las Vegas housing

The centrally located McCarran International Airport and Reno Tahoe International Airport provide regular air connections direct to many domestic hubs and a number of strategic international ports. LA, San Diego, Phoenix, San Francisco and Denver all a short flight away.

In the greater metropolitan area of Las Vegas everything is ‘20 minutes’ away due to an uncongested road system with easy access within the city and when wanting to escape.

For those who love their spectator sports, a team from many of the major US sporting codes do or will call Las Vegas home. Not least the Las Vegas Golden Knights Ice Hockey teams successful 2018 opening season, with a WNBA basketball team already in town and the NFL’s Raiders two years away. An NBA team is currently in discussion.

Lake Tahoe

Getting down to tech business

Major tech companies have been establishing a presence in the state for some time. Precipitated with Tony Hsieh’s selection of Las Vegas for Zappos, the state is also a major location for technology infrastructure and the headquarters of Switch with a presence in both the North and South of the state.

Switch Data Centre infrastructure in Las Vegas courtesy of Switch

Tesla, Apple and Google have all commenced or planned to invest in Nevada as key components of their larger business infrastructure. All good news for the workforce and more specifically technology professionals.

The state government further supports business innovation through a number of measures including income tax incentives. Business and individuals do not pay additional state income tax beyond the federal level.

Courtesy of companys like Switch, world class digital infrastructure is readily and available along with a range of cost-effective commercial and residential real estate. The University of Nevada through its Reno and Las Vegas campuses groom talent across a number of business and technical disciplines for businesses looking to call Nevada home. Private and local college networks supplement the talent pipeline.

University of Nevada Las Vegas campus

Specific to the travel and hospitality industry the University of Nevada boasts one of the top tourism, hospitality and gaming schools in the world. A number of local schools and colleges commence grooming for the industry at high school level with coursework specialized for those looking to enter travel & hospitality.

Over 500 technology related conferences are held in Las Vegas each year. Events range from the city wide Consumer Electronics Show with 180,000 visitors in January to Fortune 500 tech corporate and partner events.

Mark Okerstrom, CEO, Expedia at the 2017 partners conference

From an industry perspective, major events like G2E, the global gaming industry trade show and Expedia’s annual partner event ensure that the broader industry tech community is regularly in the back yard discussing the future of the industry.

Unique opportunities

Travel is a global industry and most developed countries rely on tourism as a source of income. Although not many host the scale of operations that travel and tourism supports in Nevada.

On one intersection in Las Vegas there are over 40000 guest rooms and associated entertainment facilities to support these visitors. By comparison there are 69000 guest rooms in the whole of New York City.

As Frank Sinatra sang of New York, when it comes to technology in travel and hospitality if you can make it in Nevada then your technology is managing a scale of operation that can’t be duplicated in the majority of travel marketplaces.

MGM’s Aria and City Center

Surrounding the scale of operations are industry professionals representing domestic and international interests, and students looking to enter the industry as a support network, talent pool or customer base for the growth of young companies in the technology space. More than 50,000 people work in technology across the state.

For consumer facing technology platforms a world of potential customers await with visitors representing every continent, culture and a multitude of languages throughout the world. A perfect base for user research.

Dennis Montelanno of Skywire

Setting up shop

Some companies have envisaged the opportunity that the Nevada presents, establishing a presence here;

SkyWire has called Las Vegas home for over a decade, providing cloud-based mobile marketing, point of sale, and spa & activities management solutions to the hospitality industry. Dennis Montellano, CEO and an industry veteran reflected on SkyWire’s experiences.

“Given that SkyWire is a hospitality technology company and Las Vegas is the hub of the hospitality sector, being headquartered here in the valley has been invaluable to our development over the years. We are constantly getting feedback firsthand from subject matter experts about what they are experiencing in their day to day operations and what their biggest pain points are. This industry is so dynamic that being located in Las Vegas gives us a distinct edge that no other city could provide.”

Nonstop, is a Reno based company that creates technology products for the hospitality industry that are design-driven, approachable, and modern. Nonstop’s products incorporate the latest mobile technologies that solve pervasive problems while delighting guests. Nonstop CEO, Neil Betterton noted,

The hi-design Qi and USB guestroom charger from Nonstop

“I’ve lived in Northern Nevada for most of my adult life. It’s exciting times for the area — which has a real shot at becoming a legit tech hub in the near future. The recent influx of tech (Tesla, Panasonic, Switch, and Apple and Google), the local entrepreneurship activity, and the growth of the University of Nevada’s College of Business is contributing to an increasingly attractive business environment. The geography offers lifestyle advantages for anyone interested in the outdoors (just over the hill from Lake Tahoe and the Sierras). Plus the proximity to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley is bringing young techies looking to resettle in a less crowded, less expensive but familiar area. We’re thrilled to be doing our start-up here in Northern Nevada!”

Aqua PMS Mobile app

Aqua PMS, a startup based in Las Vegas is developing across operations software for hotel and resort front of house, service and housekeeping operations. Leon Pashnick, COO has called Las Vegas home for a number of years.

I moved to Las Vegas several years ago and now call the city home. My view is that Las Vegas is the core of the most intense hospitality operations in the world. Particularly from the perspective of scale. We founded Aqua PMS as a direct result of our experience as operators in the hospitality industry here in Las Vegas, and have focused on ways we could address many of the operational challenges hoteliers face everyday. It’s a great location to base our company.

Insighti established their technology cyber security company in Las Vegas. Lukas Kuzmiak, COO of insighti expands on the motivations for selection of their business location.

Lukas Kuzmiak — insighti

“We decided to locate insighti in the Las Vegas valley because of the great potential we see for the area. Las Vegas is the hotel and hospitality hub of the world. Almost 20,000 conventions were held here last year alone, and we believe that Las Vegas should and will be one of the biggest IT hubs in the United States in the coming years. We want to see Las Vegas and the companies who support this city flourish. Because of this, we set up insighti, an IT security company, to help ensure that these companies stay safe and in business.”

CEO, Dean Lan of Trip Planning Master a B2C travel planning tool focused on the Chinese traveler started his company in Las Vegas.

Dean Lan — Trip Planning Master

“Las Vegas is a huge hub for hospitality and travel, and a good place to make connections with the industry. There’s always a lot going on in this city, events, concerts, conferences, tradeshows. Las Vegas also has a low cost of living.”

Other notable industry technology companies with a significant presence in the state include Duetto in the revenue management space, Shift4 for payment processing, Clairvoyix for marketing technology, IGT, Ballys, Aristocrat and Konami among others servicing the gaming technology sector.

Future possibilities

Many of the ingredients for technology businesses are in place in Nevada with a number of interested parties including government taking steps to establish infrastructure that would further support business entry into the state.

From a macro tourism perspective Las Vegas has returned to pre-financial crisis volumes. Through a number of other growth initiatives such as the redevelopment of the Las Vegas Convention Centre and the entry of a number of new hotel and resort properties the growth looks set to continue. The greater metropolitan area of Las Vegas is currently one of the 20 fastest growing cities in the country. Migration to Nevada is currently at 1.86% of population bringing a further entrance of new residents to the area and the workforce.

Cheyne Cole, Co-Founder of Testbed.Vegas shared his thoughts on the future of industry technology in Las Vegas.

“When we founded Testbed.Vegas our motivations were to generate greater interest and momentum around technology for the travel and hospitality industry. Many great initiatives take place here in Las Vegas using technology to support the traveler experience across a range of businesses. By highlighting companys that are bringing great technology to the state and calling Nevada home, we believe that there is an opportunity to increase the visibility and role of Las Vegas in the travel & hospitality technology space. All the ingredients and experience are here to make a lasting and direct contribution to technology in the sector. Las Vegas has the opportunity to be a leader and hub for industry technology.”

  • Statistics courtesy of Las Vegas Convention Visitors Authority and Nevada Governors Office of Economic Development and World Population Review.