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How to draw tourists back after tragedies
How to draw tourists back after tragedies

In the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Las Vegas shelved its fun-loving motto of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” replacing it with a hashtag — #VegasStrong — to promote tourism to the gambling mecca.

Weeks after wildfires charred California’s wine country, that region is preparing a fundraising event and campaign, dubbed Grateful Table, to show that most of the wineries and vineyards were spared from the flames and are operating as usual.

Persuading visitors to return after a natural disaster or mass tragedy can be a delicate balance between remaining sensitive to loss and getting on with life. In Las Vegas and Northern California, tourism advocates are turning to a reliable theme: spending, partying and vacationing are not only acceptable but a needed boost to local businesses trying to recover.

“Our message is intertwined with the message that by visiting the wine country you are financially supporting the community,” said Caroline Beteta, president and chief executive of Visit California, the tourism agency for the state.

It’s a smart move, communications experts say, but tourism agencies shouldn’t linger too long on a message of tragedy and recovery.

“So far, Las Vegas has done it tastefully, and that is the key to it,” said Eric Rose, a crisis and reputation management expert with Englander Knabe & Allen.

A lot is riding on getting the message right.

In Las Vegas, tourism is the biggest industry, employing about 300,000 people in the leisure and hospitality sector. In California’s Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, tourism is the second-largest industry, behind wine making, and generates nearly $4 billion in annual spending.

In Las Vegas and Northern California’s wine region, the campaign messages from tourism agencies focus on patriotism and altruism to get visitors to come there for a vacation.

Immediately after the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, Las Vegas began running ads encouraging visitors to return, coupled with the message of unity and strength in the recovery.

A television ad featuring tennis legend and Las Vegas resident Andre Agassi, which pays tribute to the strength of shooting victims and first responders, has been running since the shooting.

“For the time being, we’re continuing to listen to our customers on an ongoing basis and taking community and visitor sentiment into consideration as we think about our next campaign steps and the eventual return to the ‘What Happens in Vegas’ campaign,” said Maria Phelan, a spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

In Napa Valley, the local tourism agency, Visit Napa Valley, told local businesses that it had launched a two-phase campaign:

“Phase 1 is designed as an expression of strength, hope and understanding to all of those affected by these wildfires and their devastating aftermath,” according to an email sent out by Visit Napa Valley to businesses in the region. “Once the fires are under control and air quality improves, we will move to Phase 2, which will be designed as an open for business/welcome back message.”

To help with the recovery, Beteta said, the Grateful Table fundraiser has been scheduled for Nov. 21, featuring a gourmet meal served to about 750 guests by celebrity chef Tyler Florence on a long table in the middle of a vineyard.

She said the event will be featured in a 60-minute film documentary about the fires to show that most vineyards are unscorched.

“You have to look pretty hard to see where that fire was,” Beteta said.

Since Hurricane Harvey struck Houston in August, the city’s tourism agency has been promoting travel packages to the city, with the profits from each deal used to boost relief efforts in Houston.

Although coverage of the recent World Series showed a national audience images of downtown Houston with thriving shops and businesses, Houston’s tourism agency, Visit Houston, plans to stick with its message of recovery for the rest of the year.

“We are slowly moving back to the message that Houston is a great city to visit,” said Leah Shah, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Some other tourist destinations struck by disaster have already skipped past the message of rebuilding and recovery.

Tourism officials in Mendocino County, where wildfires raged last month, have launched a campaign that promotes November as “mushroom month,” a time when visitors can forage for mushrooms with fungi experts, take a class on how to cook with mushrooms and enjoy special mushroom-packed meals at local restaurants and eateries.

“What is coming up is to promote a positive vein,” said Koleen C. Hamblin, a spokeswoman for Visit Mendocino County. “The fire is behind us.”

The motto for the month, she said, is: “Keep calm and mushroom on.”

Report: 5 women accuse Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct

NEW YORK — Comedian Louis C.K. has been accused of sexual misconduct toward several women, including masturbating in front of them to their horror and embarrassment, according to a report in The New York Times.

Comedians Dana Min Goodman, Abby Schachner, Julia Wolov, Rebecca Corry allege the Emmy-winning star of FX's "Louie" either pleasured himself in front of them, asked to do it or did so over the phone. A fifth woman detailed her allegations against C.K. to the paper but was not identified.

A lawyer for C.K. did not immediately respond to comment from The Associated Press, but a representative for the comedian said Thursday that C.K. would issue a written statement in the coming days.

Another publicist told the Times the comedian would not respond to their reporting. Schachner, who said she heard C.K. masturbating on the phone in 2003, declined comment to The AP and representatives for the other three named women did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Corry alleges the comedian, while she was working on TV pilot in 2005, asked "if we could go to my dressing room so he could masturbate in front of me." She declined "and he told me he had issues." The show's executive producers, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, confirmed Corry's account to the Times. Cindy Guagenti, Arquette's representative, told The AP her client had nothing more to add.

In anticipation of the report, the New York premiere of Louis C.K.'s new film "I Love You, Daddy" was canceled on Thursday night and C.K.'s scheduled Friday appearance on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" also has been scrapped. The small distribution company handling the release of "I Love You Daddy" said it is reviewing the situation and giving careful consideration to the timing and release of the film.

HBO announced Thursday that C.K. would no longer be participating in "Night of Too Many Stars: America Unites for Autism Programs," set to air on the cable channel November 18. HBO also said it will remove C.K.'s past projects from its video on demand services.

C.K. is among the latest Hollywood figures to be accused of misconduct in a wave that began when dozens of sexual harassment allegations were reported last month against film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

C.K. is known for his candid, warts-and-all personal humor, which often includes talk of bodily fluids and sex.

His comedy writing and production tentacles spread throughout TV and film. He's credited as a creator of the Zach Galifianakis show "Baskets," in its third season on FX, and of Adlon's "Better Things," now in its second season on FX. He is also developing another series for FX called "The Cops" in which he's set to star opposite Albert Brooks. C.K. is an executive producer of comedian Tig Notaro's Amazon series, "One Mississippi." He starred in a Netflix special earlier this year that was nominated for two Emmy Awards.

FX said in a statement Thursday it was "obviously very troubled by the allegations."

"The network has received no allegations of misconduct by Louis C.K. related to any of our 5 shows produced together over the past 8 years," the statement said, adding, "the matter is currently under review."

C.K. also appeared on several episodes of "Parks and Recreation" in 2012 and creator Mike Schur apologized Thursday for including him. On Twitter, Schur admitted to hearing rumors but still using the comedian. "I'm sorry," he wrote.

The allegations about C.K.'s behavior are the latest in Hollywood's growing sexual harassment scandal, which prompted Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to announce Thursday the establishment of a task force to handle any resulting criminal complaints.

The industry group Women in Film also announced Thursday that it plans to launch a "help line" and panel of pro-bono legal professionals to provide counseling, referrals and legal advice to harassment victims. The free service is expected to be available beginning Dec. 1.

In other fallout Thursday, "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner was accused of sexual harassment by a former writer on the show. Kater Gordon told the website The Information in an article published Thursday that Weiner said she "owed it to him to let him see me naked" when they were working together one night. Weiner denied the allegations in a statement released by his publicist, saying, "He does not remember saying this comment nor does it reflect a comment he would say to any colleague."