By Kate Marshall
For as long as nearly anyone can remember, the Silver State has been a place where travelers from around the world have come seeking opportunity, culture, and the uniquely diverse beauty of a landscape that includes the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the sands of the Mojave desert, and the aquamarine waters of Lake Tahoe and Lake Mead.
Millions come to our state by planes, trains, and cars to patronize our world-class resorts and to engage in outdoor recreation. They see first-hand our awe-inspiring landmarks as they travel along our roads and absorb our stories—via a branded road trip program.
We know from experience that Nevada’s attractions are tourism magnets—and that tourism is a key driver of economic and social prosperity for the people that live here. That’s why I went on a rural tour earlier this month to see exactly what our smaller cities and towns have to offer both locals and tourists alike.
When we invest in the development of iconic Nevada attractions, whether through protecting historic landmarks, marketing Nevada’s myriad sites, or building additional infrastructure, we attract more visitors. Tourism creates jobs, generates tax revenue and provides our state with a return-on-investment that far exceeds the initial costs of capturing the imaginations of would-be travelers from around the world.
There are many precious treasures to be found throughout the vast swathes of Nevada’s landscape that make up our rural communities; each of them is worthy of excitement and appreciation.
Take Baker, Nevada, for example. The name might not immediately come to mind for many travelers or native Nevadans for that matter, but in reality, it is the gateway town for Great Basin National Park. Baker is home not only to wondrous peaks and enchanting caves, but also young entrepreneurs starting businesses to provide park visitors delicious frittatas and homemade scones before they embark on their adventures.
Or Beatty, where I met with a local rancher who demonstrates how to ranch while still preserving the natural habitats on his land to help save the Amargosa Toad. He has also created an outdoor recreation hot spot that recently hosted a Tough Mudder obstacle course race, which sold out hotel rooms in town for an entire weekend.
Nevada’s rural communities are sites of history and fascination. These places deserve to be explored, protected and invested in—and they bring profound enthusiasm to those who visit.
Fortunately for our state, various cooperating agencies and individuals take tourism in Nevada seriously. They continue to demonstrate their commitment to promoting and preserving the landmarks and businesses in these communities, whose economies depend significantly on tourism traffic.
Among those agencies is TravelNevada, which allocates $1.65M per year in grants to Nevada’s communities so that they can execute robust marketing programs to potential visitors around the world, make infrastructure improvements to improve visitor experiences (like visitor kiosks, interpretive signage, building improvements and more), and generate overnight stays, which are a critical revenue stream for the state and its municipalities.
Dedicating funding and personnel to the promotion of tourism throughout the state has provided multiple benefits to our region. Once known for its gaming and ghost towns, Nevada has more recently made headlines for its diversity of businesses, its rapidly growing population, and its impressive comeback story which has seen this state overcome—and far outpace—the painful realities brought about by the economic downturn of 2008.
We are able to do this because we believe in all of our communities and the people who live in them. We drive economic development, draw tourists to different locations, and spur new possibilities for Nevadans because we are willing to invest in them—faithful in the idea that taking that risk brings greater prosperity for all.
The past week spent in rural Nevada has only reaffirmed my belief that we must strengthen our commitment to supporting, promoting and building a sense of connectivity between Nevada’s communities statewide. Doing so will bring about positive economic and cultural returns, as well as help us to retain the unique history, character and diversity of the Battle Born State for generations to come.
Kate Marshall is the lieutenant governor of Nevada. She is a member of the Democratic party and previously served as the state treasurer.