Las Vegas: Life Is Short, Summer Is Shorter

Las Vegas, Nevada
Christian Thomas | Getty Images
Las Vegas, Nevada

Sin City is looking a little less rough around the edges.

"The Germans and Australians are spending like crazy," said one cab driver this week.

March figures show that gaming revenue on the Las Vegas Strip rose 13 percent from a year ago.

The average room rate is up a staggering 19 percent, to $111.13, reaching 2005 levels, according to Rossi Ralenkotter, head of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. The only negative has been a drop in the number of cars coming in from Southern California, perhaps because of high gas prices.

Now the city that brought you "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas" is launching a new campaign: "Life is Short, Summer is Shorter."

In this interview, Ralenkotter talks about how important Southern California is to Vegas, but also how important the international traveler is.

Global travelers now make up 18 percent of tourists coming to the Strip, up from 12 percent in 2004-2005. Ralenkotter says the percentage would be even higher if visa restrictions were eased for travelers from the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Next door in California, it's Caroline Beteta's job to get tourists to visit the Golden State, even if it's a brief stayover on their way to Vegas.

Travel Dollars - A CNBC Special Report
Travel Dollars - A CNBC Special Report

She runs the California Travel & Tourism Commission, the public/private partnership behind ads showing Kim Kardashian poolside reading a physics book to lure visitors west.

In 2010, domestic tourism grew 4 percent in California, while international tourism grew six percent. Domestic spending rose 7 percent, international rose 11 percent.

Growth is expected again this year, but at a slower pace.

Gas prices are seen as both a good thing and a bad thing, says Betetain this interview.