Tourism Award recipients committed to Laughlin
LAUGHLIN — The Laughlin Chamber of Commerce’s Lloyd Shires Tourism Award is given to an individual who positively impacts tourism in the Tri-state area and typically includes employees of hotels, motels, resorts, casinos, transportation or travel services.
The Lloyd Shires Tourism Award was renamed last year to honor Lloyd Shires, who was a longtime director of marketing, hotel and air program at Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort and previous winner of the award.
This year’s finalists include three of Laughlin’s own — Trina Ewing, of the Edgewater and Colorado Belle hotel casino resorts; Matthew Young, of Laughlin Tours; and Matt Laughlin, of Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort and Casino.
Trina Ewing recently celebrated her 31st year with the Colorado Belle/Edgewater where she started as a desk clerk in 1987 and worked her way up.
She first moved to Laughlin from La Mirada, California to take care of her ill grandmother but ended up staying, Ewing said.
“I was eager to learn hotel operations,” said Ewing, who is now the director of sales for both properties.
Ewing has been nominated for a CAA twice before, and each time it’s been a humbling experience, she said.
There are lot of people who work to bring visitors to Laughlin and, for herself, it doesn’t feel like work, she said.
“How is this my job?” she asked laughing. “It doesn’t seem like work when our destination is as beautiful as it is.”
Her job is to cultivate relationships within the community and to draw in customers.
Ewing creates packages for her cliental in the area that include different amenities, including those that give visitors a chance to experience the area in its entirety, she said.
“It’s a win-win because we want them to stay and play but if we want them to come back, then we need to expose them to other elements,” said Ewing.
Ewing can’t pull herself away from her selling her properties, even while on vacation.
“I never go anywhere and not sell Laughlin,” said Ewing laughing.
She recently visited vineyards in Santa Maria and was selling trips to Laughlin.
“This area is not difficult to sell,” said Ewing.
Tourism is healthy for the community, she said.
“If you expose visitors to everything Laughlin has to offer and get them here, I truly believe they will be back somehow,” said Ewing.
She is excited at the prospect of helping others in the tourism business. She encourages others on her team to ask her questions and to learn more about the business.
Ewing’s success came from just that, asking questions, she said.
Ewing wouldn’t be where she is without the support of others and wants to give that same support to others looking to advance their careers, she said.
Matthew Young bought Laughlin Tours from his dad and his wife, Craig and Christine Young, in March. The couple won the tourism award a few years ago, said Young, making this the company’s second nomination.
Young, not previously aware of how the awards worked, realized being a finalist for the award was a big deal and got really excited, he said.
“I really want to win now,” he said laughing.
Laughlin Tours provides a variety of tours that help visitors explore the entire Tri-state.
Tours include the Grand Canyon with the Grand Canyon Railway or the West Rim and the skywalk.
Guests can also drive to the bottom of the canyon via Route 66.
Additional options include going to Oatman, visiting Hoover Dam or the recently added wine tasting, distillery and brewery tour in Kingman.
“There’s so much to see,” said Young. “People can have their fun gambling but when they’re done, when they find us, they’re excited especially because they don’t necessarily have a vehicle.”
Craig believes his tours compliment all the offers and amenities guests receive at the resorts, making for a more well-rounded vacation destination, he said.
“They get to do what they’re coming for, which is gambling, but then they found out there is a lot more to see and do and it works really well together,” said Young.
Young is new to owning Laughlin Tours, but he’s familiar with tourism having previously owned a boat rental business.
“We are able to provide a service that creates really nice memories for the people going on our trips,” said Young.
The company is in a position to give visitors something that lasts forever and that’s cool, he said. It’s nice to be able to help people check items off their bucket lists.
Young added the wine tasting tour and continues to work on their marketing, particularly online which helps bring in visitors from further away. There is an ongoing effort to bring other visitors to Laughlin.
Laughlin Tours may spend most of their tour hours outside of Laughlin proper but they are fully committed to the community, Young said.
Whenever they receive donation requests from local groups and organizations, they’ve respond with some type of donation or items to auction, he said.
Matt Laughlin, chief operating officer for Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort, was humbled by his nomination, he said.
“This means a lot to me because it’s the Lloyd Shires Tourism Award — I worked alongside Lloyd before he retired here at the Riverside and all he did for tourism,” said Laughlin. “It only makes sense the award is named after him.”
It was surprising to get that email, said Laughlin, but ultimately it’s really a nomination for the team.
Everyone who works in marketing at the Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino works to make it happen, he said.
“In a way, it’s easy for me because I work with such great people who fill the hotel rooms,” said Laughlin.
The air program and the marketing program work together constantly to keep visitors coming and to attract new visitors, Laughlin said. All the employees contribute to the resort’s success.
He thanked his grandfather, Don Laughlin, for allowing them to come up with crazy new ideas to bring in new visitors, said Laughlin.
Laughlin oversees the resort’s air program which flies in about 60,000 visitors annually from assorted cities around the United States, he said.
With an approving nod from his grandfather, Laughlin expanded the air program from eight flights per week to 10.
“It’s another 330 people here a week,” said Laughlin. “We see it in our occupancy and our revenue.”
Not everyone who flies in is going to stay at the Riverside the entire visit, visitors will go to the Grand Canyon, enjoy the Colorado River and participate in other activities, he said.
Out of the 60,000 people flown to Laughlin, 15 to 25 percent are first time visitors depending on the season, said Laughlin. That’s a significant number of people being introduced to Laughlin annually, he said.
Beyond the air program, the Riverside has put a lot of money back into the property, said Laughlin, including building a resort pool and renovation of Losers Lounge.
“We don’t want people to say ‘oh it’s the same old Laughlin,’” Laughlin said. “So we put a lot of money back into the property to keep it fresh.”
It’s amazing to see how many people who come out here end up coming back, Laughlin said.
Many eventually move to Laughlin and become local customers, he added.
Attracting visitors to Laughlin is part of supporting the community but the Riverside makes contributions in other ways. The resort casino gives donations of 20 to 25 room packages per month for silent auctions, raffle giveaways, to local and regional charities or nonprofit organizations such as the American Legion, the Elks Lodge, Moose Lodge, the Eagles, Bids for Kids, The River Fund, Inc., local and regional Meals on Wheels, Laughlin Shop with a Cop and more throughout the Tri-state area. They, along with other casinos, help support Tri-State Military Moms through R.E.D. T-shirt Day Nov. 9.