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Sue Morrow: Chrystal retires from commission on tourism

Sue Morrow
For the Nevada Appeal

The next time Chris Chrystal takes a trip, it won’t be with a dozen or so charges in the form of visitors from the United States and other countries under her wing.

The former media relations manager for the Nevada Commission on Tourism retired recently after 13 years on the job.

In addition to preparing news releases and responding to calls from the media, Chrystal has conducted numerous familiarization tours, shepherding travel writers and tour operators through the Silver State’s places of interest.

“It sounds glamorous to be on all these tours with the travel and the excitement,” said Chrystal. “But it’s work when you’re on a tour, and all these people are entrusted to your care. We are responsible to be sure they’re well and comfortable and have a good time” and get the information they need, she said.

A case in point was a FAM in West Wendover where a young woman from Hong Kong was “hot-dogging it” on an ATV. The visitor’s machine tipped over, and she was injured, according to Chrystal. Chrystal ended up with another FAM member following an ambulance bearing the visitor to a hospital in Salt Lake City. To make matters worse, the woman spoke no English. Chrystal said she spent the night napping in a chair in the hospital room.

The woman, a tour operator, had suffered a broken collarbone. “She communicated (the next day) with gestures she was OK to travel and was flown to San Francisco where she was able to catch up with her group to return to Hong Kong.

Another time, a visiting longtime travel writer from Toronto, who unbeknownst to the FAM organizers was suffering from cancer, got “desperately ill” in Eureka during a tour on Highway 50 dubbed “The Loneliest Road in America.” Chrystal accompanied him on the drive to Ely, and he was sent by a small plane to Reno and then home.

“FAMs are one of the most important things we do in tourism,” said Chrystal. “They familiarize travel journalists and tour operators with Nevada’s attractions and historic and cultural attributes and everything we offer here to entice our visitors. And there’s no better way to get good coverage that’s credible.”

NCOT hires representatives from private companies in Canada, Mexico, China, the UK and continental Europe. All of them know Nevada, and when they bring a tour, one of them accompanies the group and can serve as interpreter if needed, Chrystal said. The tours have ranged from skiing at Lake Tahoe to the Basque Festival in Elko.

Chrystal boasts a 30-year news career, which began at the Nevada Appeal in the 1960s where we worked together, to Las Vegas and then, with United Press International, to Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Sacramento. She then served in then-Gov. Pete Wilson’s administration until his term ended, returning to Carson City, where she was subsequently hired for her job with NCOT.

“If not the best job in state government, it’s surely one of the top 10,” she said. “It is a wonderful job to sell Nevada, because you’re selling good times, generating revenue for your state, and every day you feel that you’ve accomplished something worthwhile for Nevada.”

In retirement she looks forward to taking her two large dogs, Peter and Peggy, on long walks in the city’s foothills.

And any trips she takes these days will be strictly without a cast of thousands.

• Sue Morrow is a longtime journalist and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame. She may be reached at soozymorrow@yahoo.com.,