The Sex Tourist – If it Happens in Vegas it Stays in Vegas
By Ian Yeoman
Tuesday, 6th May 2008

Las Vegas is the Disneyland fantasy destination for adults - where anything can happen - where anything goes and where wives will never find out.

Its naughty, raunchy marketing slogan, ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’, represents the sinful side of tourism. It is about sex and sin, not authenticity, green pastures and great mountain views.

Vegas is a destination that offers the opposite of ethical consumption, caring for the planet and worrying about climate change. It is about conspicuous consumption and lavishness rather than communities and humanity. So why, when so many policymakers talk about the ‘greening of tourism’, is Vegas so successful? The answer is simply sex and sin. Vegas is a sinful city where tourists take a vacation for adult, undiluted erotica.


Ever since Las Vegas became a gambling oasis in the Nevada desert, sex has played an important role in its entertainment scene. When Bugsy Siegel first opened his Tropicana Casino in this sleepy desert town, in 1957, he featured beautiful female hostesses and lavish shows with scantily clad women.

That formula is still prevalent in Las Vegas casinos today. In nearly every casino, beautiful cocktail waitresses dressed in ultra-short skirts and low-cut tops float around the gaming tables, dispensing smiles and free drinks.

The entertainment venues present topless reviews and risque´ entertainment. Just walking along the sidewalks of Las Vegas Boulevard, visitors pass numerous newspapers and posters flaunting revealing photographs of female escorts and nude models. In the streets men thrust flyers advertising sexual services into the hands of passers-by. Vegas certainly gives the appearance of living up to its reputation as ‘sin city’.

Jack Sheehan in his book, Skin City describes an advertisement in Vegas showing an attractive woman crawling into the back of a limousine, letting her hair down from its neatly tied bun, fondling the leather interior, flirting with the driver, changing clothes enroute to the airport, and caressing the driver as he drops her off. The message couldn’t be clearer

Vegas is a place where you totally relax your inhibitions and indulge in behaviours you would never have dreamed back home in Walla Walla.

This is the basis for the Las Vegas marketing campaign, ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’, that is, letting visitors know they can do whatever they want in Las Vegas, whether gambling or having sex with a complete stranger or doing other things they would never dare do in their home town. The marketing concept is ‘freedom’, people leaving their woes behind, going right to the edge and having adult fun.

The Dark Side

Wherever there is tourism there are sex tourists. However, the dark side of this is, :increasingly, people under the age of 18 are being recruited into the commercial sex markets to service the demand resulting from the normalisation of and the promotion of commercial sex across America .

These young victims join the adult women who have also been deceived about the kind of work they were being offered and have been coerced into prostitution, becoming victims of human trafficking as defined by the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

Many Americans believe that prostitution is legal throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, a belief which is due in no small part to the highly visible, sexually based advertising. However, this is not the case; prostitution is not legal in Clark County where Las Vegas is located. The state law prohibits prostitution in counties with a population of 400,000 residents or more; Las Vegas, therefore, is excluded because its population is 1.1 million.

Las Vegas has been described as America’s ‘Disneyland of Sex’. Its culture of tolerance promotes promiscuity more than anywhere else in the country. One encounters Las Vegas’ sexualised culture even in the airport’s baggage hall. Big-screen televisions show advertisements for seductive cabaret shows; big casinos vie for attention by featuring more risque´ displays.

Taxicabs display advertisements with female posteriors and little else promoting various shows. Billboards advertise ‘shows’ and outside their doors clubs advertise ‘cabaret’ shows that, in essence, are just glorified strip shows. The Internet features assorted advertisements, such as on www.hotspotsofnevada.com, a site which features legal brothels and other sex venues and depicts a man and woman engaged in sexual intercourse. In addition, the local yellow pages contain over 155 pages of advertisements for massage parlours and escort services, with suggestive phrases and photographs.

Many are costly double-page advertisements and claim to ‘bring’ the girls direct to you in your hotel room â€" 24 h’. Yellow page advertisements boast of college girls, student nurses, exotic beauties, wild teenagers of barely legal age, and Russian and Asian teen petites. Most advertisements claim to provide ‘full service’, implying that intercourse is available.

Las Vegas offers no guarantees that you’ll strike it rich at a slot machine or a blackjack table. However, it does promise that you’ll get lucky under the sheets, quite possibly with one of the most beautiful girls you’ve ever seen presuming you have some extra cash in your pocket. Prices can range from $400 to $1000 and upwards. As the Jack Sheehan recalls ‘These women are like automobiles â€" the better looking and better built they are, the higher the price tag’.

In spite of the law prohibiting obscenity in advertising, on magazine racks, and on the streets of Las Vegas, there are free brochures and booklets explicitly advertising various sexual acts for sale, mostly escort services. Filipino, Korean, Thai, Russian, Chinese and Japanese women are advertised in these publications. Many of the brochures are published by Southwest Publishing Associates and include Night Beat, Full Xxposure, Pussy Cat Magazine, Goodtime Girls, LV Heat and LV Nude Entertainment Guide. In addition to these traditional means of advertising, picture cards are passed out every night on the streets, depicting different types and nationalities of women: Romanian, Asian, blondes, brunettes, and so on. The great majority of these offer services around the clock and advertise as ‘full service’

Latino men and women on the streets, especially on the Upper Strip, aggressively thrust the cards at passers-by, specifically targeting the men. Contrary to the public, idealised images of Las Vegas, reinforced by powerful advertising campaigns, the prostituted girls are typically not college students working their way through graduate school, although they may be advertised as such; rather, they are the runaways and homeless teenagers who arrive in droves by bus from nearly every state, especially nearby California. Predator pimps at bus stations, in arcades and in shopping malls quickly recruit a large number of these vulnerable youngsters; they groom them and force them out into the streets in and around the Fremont Street Experience â€" trafficking victims in the sex tourism market which is Las Vegas.

In recent years, Las Vegas has been identified as a major centre for Asian massage girls working in strip mall shops throughout Clark County. Clark County granted 39 massage establishment licences in 2005, while Las Vegas reported a jump from 52 in 2001 to 74 in 2005, but this does not reflect the true number of massage parlours in operation. Metro vice police point out that many illegal massage parlours are operating in Las Vegas. Precious resources and time are spent conducting background checks on applicants with questionable credentials and almost non-existent English. A massage industry source reports that an owner of two parlours commonly transfers his unlicensed girls from one locationto the next just ahead of police visits.

So, if it happens in Vegas it stays in Vegas

One thing is sure: all the talk about cyber sex is nonsensical when it comes to the real thing, and in Vegas sex sells. The use of sexual imagery and propositions is the backbone of ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’. Such a marketing message is based on secrets, the mystery of sex and doing something sinful well away from home.

About Author
Ian Yeoman is the world’s only professional crystal ball gazer or futurologist specializing in travel and tourism. Ian learned his trade as the scenario planner for VisitScotland, where he established the process of futures thinking within the organisation using a variety of techniques including economic modelling, trends analysis and scenario construction. In May 2008, Ian was appointed an Assoc. Professor of Tourism Management at Victoria University, He is a popular speaker at conferences and was described by the UK Sunday Times as the country's leading contemporary futurologist.
Ian has a PhD in Management Science from Napier University, Edinburgh and a BSc (Hons) in Catering Systems from Sheffield Hallam University. Previously, Ian was Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality Management at Napier University and University College, Birmingham. He has extensive experience within the hospitality industry, for which he was a hotel manager with Trusthouse Forte.
Ian has received a number of awards in recognition of his research including his appointment as a Honorary Professor of Tourism Management at Stirling University and the Mike Simpson Award from the Operational Research Society.

More details about Ian and futurology in the travel industry can be at www.tomorrowstourist.com

Contact details: Email: hc15@lycos.co.uk

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