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Vegas Veteran Chairing U.S. Travel Association

I report in this week's magazine about Rossi Ralenkotter, recently named the chair of the U.S. Travel Association (for members):

It was the late 1990s, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority was trying to come up with a new marketing campaign. After listening to stories from thousands of visitors, the organization found a common theme. "It's all about adult freedom," says Rossi Ralenkotter, who has worked at the authority for 39 years and took over as president in 2004. That realization led to the now-famous slogan, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

Washington certainly offers a different kind of experience than Las Vegas. Ralenkotter, who turns 65 next month, was in town last week to take over as national chair of the U.S. Travel Association. He'll help lead the association's advocacy efforts on behalf of foreign and domestic travelers.

Ralenkotter, a father of five and grandfather of 11, was born in northern Kentucky, but his family moved to Las Vegas when he was 4. He returned to the city after college and, in the four decades since, has seen it transform from a purely gambling hub to a destination with offerings for everyone. Ralenkotter's recommendations for first-time visitors to Las Vegas: Visit the downtown casinos, take in a show, and, if you're like him, sneak some time on one of the city's golf courses. Even for a longtime resident, Vegas still has that special something. "To me, it's the buzz and excitement, even to this day," he said.

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