The numbers are a long time coming for industry watchers. The last time visitor counts cracked the 5 million mark, George W. Bush was president and Beyoncé was burning up the Billboard charts with "Irreplaceable."
The RSCVA and policymakers cited several factors for the increased visitation numbers: a strong U.S. economy, a renewed push to market the Reno-Tahoe area and buzz from the arrival of high-profile companies such as Apple, Google, Tesla and Switch.
For the first time since 2007, total visitor counts for people visiting Washoe County, including Reno-Sparks annual events, topped the 5 million mark, according to the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.
When the RSCVA started tracking visitors in 2002, the area was in the midst of an economic boom that saw nearly 5.7 million tourists. Once the housing bubble popped five years later amid a nationwide recession, tourism took a big hit.
Visitor counts fell to as low as 4.3 million in 2011.
Gov. Brian Sandoval is among those who say the new numbers validate Nevada's economic recovery.
"We're in the midst of a renaissance right now, but what's important is that it's sustainable," Sandoval said.
Big deals the visitors authority recently landed include the return of the Safari Club International convention - the biggest trade show ever held in Reno - after it left for an extended stint in Las Vegas. It also managed to take the Interbike convention from its traditional home of Las Vegas and bring it to Reno-Tahoe for the first time.
Visitors authority Vice President of Sales Mike Larragueta says interest in Reno was a lot stronger during the U.S. Travel Association's annual convention last year in Denver, which was attended by 1,000 travel organizations and about 1,300 domestic and international buyers. "We struggled to get accounts to meet with us in the past, but we ended with 84 appointments over three days, which is unheard of for us," Larragueta said. "It's the destination.
We've become relevant."
With taxable room revenue jumping from $231.5 million during the 2012 fiscal year to $347.4 million during the 2017 fiscal year, the visitors authority has seen a corresponding rise to its marketing budget.