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Boosting Tourism by Revamping U.S. Infrastructure: MGM CEO's Vision

Boosting Tourism by Revamping U.S. Infrastructure: MGM CEO's Vision

  Tourism is an engine of economic development. Tourists spend money at restaurants, retail stores and boutiques which boosts local economies. Kirk Kerkorian acquired MGM in 1969 and immediately made significant changes in its operations and direction, such as hiring new management, cutting film output to around five movies annually, diversifying products offered, etc. 1. Rebuild Airports Airports across the nation are in dire need of repairs; some airports are so dysfunctional that passengers spend more time waiting than actually flying. "Investment should focus on areas like this one where we can see dramatic improvement in travel times," according to Murren. "That would be one of our main goals." U.S. should prioritize rebuilding its highways, particularly those connecting tourist spots to airports. Murren noted that funds have been set aside for such work but that political will must also be applied; "prioritization will need to be key. " As well as investing in airports and highways, the United States should also prioritize investing in its ports. Port facilities offer jobs while contributing significantly to economic growth when the U.S. exports more goods than it imports - "we must do a better job at optimizing their potential", stated one port executive. Murren suggested that international tourism could far surpass government projections if the government implemented an integrated resort strategy in tandem with the 2020 Olympic Games, according to his experience with other markets that utilize them. Visitors staying longer at cities featuring integrated resorts "to experience its diversity of attractions", according to him. MGM announced recently that Murren, after nearly four decades at MGM, will step down as chairman and CEO, while Bill Hornbuckle who had been serving as acting CEO and president would take his place permanently as permanent appointees. Hornbuckle, who once served as President and COO of MGM Europe, also held positions with MGM China Holding Ltd as well as CityCenter JV Board. Like Murren, Hornbuckle enjoys sports - particularly supporting his hometown team: Las Vegas Aces of WNBA franchise MGM Resorts owns. Hornbuckle currently sits on both the Las Vegas Stadium Authority and MGM Resorts' board of directors, where his appointment as chairman was the result of a nationwide search to identify someone suitable. MGM Resorts announced his appointment just as all their Las Vegas properties reopened with its seven-point health protocol protocol in effect. 2. Rebuild Highways As America continues to recover from coronavirus pandemic, New York City is set to welcome the highest number of visitors since 2009. Jessica Lappin, head of NYC & Company - New York's official tourism organization - has worked tirelessly to bring visitors back after they dropped during pandemic. At her meeting with CNBC's Contessa Brewer, Ms. Wood outlined both the efforts being undertaken by her city to boost tourism as well as any challenges it might present to maintaining momentum. MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle made this comment in an interview with Skift to benefit his own property, specifically its Las Vegas Strip hotels and casinos, by increasing the visitor numbers brought in through improved roadways like Interstate 15. However, his point could affect travel nationwide. Hornbuckle believes the infrastructure boom has been too focused on airports, while ground transportation remains neglected. He suggested using some of the roughly $110 billion already allocated towards upgrading roads and railways with projects benefitting tourism as part of this larger plan. One such project in Massachusetts involves two 90-year-old bridges connecting Cape Cod with other areas in Massachusetts that must be repaired if tourist traffic and local economies are to flourish, according to Hornbuckle. If these repairs do not come about, Hornbuckle predicts tourist numbers could dwindle and local economies could collapse as tourist traffic vanishes. Hornbuckle believes one project that could boost tourism is improving Interstate 73 that connects Michigan and Myrtle Beach. He notes that rehabilitation projects are moving slowly due to process issues rather than funding issues; more coordination between agencies and stakeholders should take place, according to Hornbuckle. MGM Resorts is committed to harnessing tourism for economic gains while at the same time building its corporate social responsibility and sustainability credentials, earning recognition on CDP's annual A-List for climate change and water security performance. 3. Rebuild Bridges Bring visitors into the country is key to increasing tourism, but that alone won't do. Once people arrive, they need the ability to travel around freely - meaning repairing and rebuilding its highway network which has fallen into disrepair, as well as improving other infrastructure components of the nation. MGM Resorts CEO James Murren's vision for revitalizing tourism includes a pledge to improve infrastructure as part of his national plan to revitalize the economy through travel and tourism - a vital driver of jobs and economic expansion. MGM Resorts International was honored as a leader in sustainability by being named to global environmental non-profit CDP's A-List of leaders for climate change and water security transparency and performance. MGM Resorts received special accreditation to attend the 2023 UN Water Conference; to learn more about their efforts to protect our planet please click here. MGM Entertainment Group (MGM) has other ambitious plans underway beyond its casinos. In Springfield, they plan to build a 130,000-square-foot dining and entertainment district dubbed Armory Square that will connect directly to their parking garages, featuring more than 25 high-energy dining and entertainment venues. This project will occupy land that once housed South End Community Center and Howard Street School which the city plans on auctioning off later this year. Cristyne Nicholas has been an outspoken proponent for revitalizing tourism after the coronavirus pandemic in New York. As chair of the state tourism advisory council and co-founder of communications firm Nicholas & Lence, she led efforts on Governor Kathy Hochul's $450 million investment to hire staff back into tourism employment while also promoting fall activities ranging from corn mazes to scenic foliage viewings. Hornbuckle of MGM has played a key role in establishing professional sports in Las Vegas and is an esteemed member of its business community, overseeing one of the nation's largest business improvement districts. Additionally, he's been an invaluable ally during natural disasters and terrorist attacks and supports Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal of an ambitious $15 billion transit expansion in Las Vegas. 4. Rebuild Transit Hornbuckle emphasizes ground transportation as another top priority, noting the massive infrastructure boom underway and how much of it has been focused on airports; yet much needs to be done on the ground, with highways and railways playing an essential role in tourism requiring upgrades; upwards of $110 billion of Congress approved spending could be reallocated toward tourism-focused projects instead. He specifically names Interstate 15, taken by 10 million travelers each year from Southern California to Las Vegas, as an example. Congestion during Memorial Day weekend caused what normally took 3 1/2 hours into a 12-mile backup - "without transportation it can really harm industry." Hornbuckle strongly advocates for high-speed rail to link cities and tourist spots across the Midwest and Northeast. He sees it as a "game-changer," which would reduce traffic congestion while simultaneously improving safety, making rail travel an appealing alternative to driving. MGM Resorts is also striving to ensure its properties are environmentally sustainable, according to their spokesperson. CityCenter, one of the world's largest green developments designed to use less energy and water, was awarded platinum company status by Human Rights Campaign while Diversity Inc has honored it 14 consecutive times as one of its Top Companies. Panelists emphasized the travel and tourism industries are an integral component of middle-class employment, supporting one in nine U.S. jobs and more families than coal industries combined, while simultaneously decreasing our dependence on foreign oil while protecting local environments and contributing to local economies by drawing visitors and collecting taxes. As discussion turned to the 2016 presidential election, Hornbuckle made no secret of his preference for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Although a lifelong Republican, he credits an accumulation of "vitriol" from former President Obama directed at John McCain, disabled reporters, women and minorities as having led to this decision.

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