News - April 19, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison recently returned from a 10-day TravelNevada trade mission to China.

One of his biggest takeaways is the Chinese -- who make up the No. 1 foreign travel market for the U.S. -- see the Tesla gigafactory near Reno as a major tourist attraction.

Hutchison said he saw so much interest in the Tesla gigafactory among the Chinese that he wants to talk to Tesla officials about tours through the gigafactory. The gigafactory, which measures in at 5.5 million square feet, is reportedly the biggest building in the world in terms of its physical footprint.

The $5 billion gigafactory, still under construction at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center in Storey County, manufactures lithium ion batteries to power Tesla's electric cars.

"One of my biggest takeaways from the trip is to speak to Tesla officials and just let them know (about the interest from Chinese tourism officials)," Hutchison said Wednesday on Nevada Newsmakers. "I don't know if they are interested or not interested but the big attraction, at least for the Chinese traveler, would be a tour through Tesla."

Touring Tesla was a near-constant theme of the trip to promote Nevada tourism in the state's No. 1 foreign tourism market.

"That came up repeatedly through my time in China," Hutchison said about inquiries about tours of the gigafactory.

Hutchinson visited five Chinese cities including Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.

"Tesla was a big topic of conversation when I was over there," Hutchison said. "The Chinese tourists, the travelers, all of those who we met with, all loved the Tesla company and they wanted to come out and see the gigafactory."

Las Vegas remains the state's top attraction for Chinese tourists, Hutchison said. About 19 percent of Las Vegas visitors are from foreign markets, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

"In fact, when we met with the largest online tourism operation there, they said their No. 2 destination in the United States with their customers was Las Vegas," Hutchison said. "So after New York, they wanted to come to Las Vegas."

Lake Tahoe was also a big draw, Hutchison said.

"They love Tahoe," he said. "The Chinese traveler knows about Tahoe and Reno is right next to Tahoe and they associate the two together. So there is a lot of emphasis."

Chinese tourism officials were also pleased with the recent meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump.

"They (Chinese media) were very happy about the meeting with Donald Trump and President Xi," Hutchison said. "And that was wildly reported when I was there.

"It is interesting," Hutchison said. "A lot of the Chinese I spoke to as well had a favorable impression of Donald Trump. And particularly, after that meeting (between Xi and Trump). They were worried about that meeting because of the rhetoric that came out of the (U.S. presidential) campaign. After that meeting, they were not only optimistic views about President Trump but also about the United States."