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Las Vegas Expansion ReportJuly 30, 2007 By: Glenn Haussman Travel Agent
New building projects are helping Vegas cater to a high-end market
Walking down the Las Vegas Strip, it's easy to see a major
change has taken place. Almost entirely gone are the last vestiges of classic Vegas,
including the Rat Pack playground where hard-nosed gamblers came to test their
mettle against Lady Luck, ate a few comped meals and slept in a sparsely
furnished hotel room. It happened slowly at first, but during the past 10 years
mostly every original hotel has met the wrecking ball, changing the entire
character of the city.
Las Vegas Today
For better or worse, a
then again, the experiences that are offered dwarf those from 20 years ago.
It's a place where high design, celebrity chefs, luxurious spas, world-class
entertainment and some of the best guest rooms in the world have harmoniously
collided to create the world's most glittery, glamorous vacation and meetings
Even the traditional hotel room has gotten an extensive
makeover. Rather than just a place to just catch a quick nap, guest rooms have
become luxurious retreats where 300-thread-count sheets, oversized marble
bathrooms and flat-screen televisions reign supreme.
And while there are still a few places where cheap sleep and
even cheaper eats are available, the typical cost of a trip to
is constantly climbing, according to statistics from the Las Vegas Convention
and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). Take packages for example, the average package
price in 2006 was $662.78, a steep climb from $571.43 in 2005 and $484.13 in
2003. Room rates are also increasing rapidly. In 2003, the average room cost
$81.43 and climbed to $107.12 this past year. And in the first five months of
2007, the typical room continued to get more expensive and is now $139.26.
That's okay though, because people are willing to pay for
the more upscale experiences that have emerged. In fact, since the city has
been adding more upscale rooms and amenities,
with a higher income level. In 2003, 12 percent of
a year, but in 2006 that number had doubled to 24 percent. And, those earning
less than $40,000 are for the most part no longer visiting. In 2003, 23 percent
of visitors made less than $40,000, but by 2006 the number sank to seven
In the Works
"We have $30 billion in construction going on right now
and everything is in the upper scale in caliber," said Art Jimenez,
director of Leisure Sales with the LCVA. "People are willing and desiring
to pay for experiences. And the market is bearing it and absorbing the
continual influx of new product."
Alan Feldman, SVP of Public Affairs with MGM Mirage Corp.,
is not at all surprised by the changes taking place. "Most of the new
development is upscale because it is the least represented. There is so much
room for growth on the upper end of the market," said Feldman, noting that
the trend is being fueled by multiple trends: The desire to add luxury to daily
life, as well as an appreciation for increased quality at all levels of the
Barry Liben, president and CEO of Tzell Travel, has been
for more than 30 years and has seen the seminal shift from modest hotels, at
even more modest prices, into a costly upscale getaway.
"The place is a magnet for money and the most dynamic
tourist spot in the world. In the old days, people only went to gamble and
everyone was comped on food and rooms. Today, [casino operators] build $40
million restaurants and people will pay a lot to eat in them. It is all
high-end and [casino operators] have proven that if you put in the right
property and do it right, people will pay," said Liben.
At Boyd Gaming, VP Corporate Communications Rob Stillwell
percentage of luxury-level rooms than other major sites such as
which is further adding to the development of properties at the upper end of
the market. "Where other cities have upwards of 30 percent of the rooms in
the [upper upscale or luxury segment] Vegas is only in the mid teens,"
Boyd, which has traditionally played to the locals market
with properties such as Sam's Town and the
it's most upscale and expensive project to date. And while Boyd had proven the
company can play in the upscale market with its Borgata in
incredibly high cost of land on The Strip—about $35 million an acre—makes it
mandatory to build for the top end of the market.
Echelon, scheduled to open summer 2010, will feature a mix
of upscale hotels that each appeal to a different type of guest seeking a
luxury experience. There will be the mainstream mega resort Hotel Echelon with
2,500 rooms and the smaller 650 unit Suites at Echelon. A pair of boutique
properties, Delano and Mondrian (860 and 550 room respectively), will cater to
younger travelers, while the five star Shangri-La Las Vegas will appeal to the
uppermost end of the market with its 282 guest rooms and 71 premium suites.
MGM Mirage already has many upscale properties such as
Bellagio, Mirage and MGM Grand, which has 54 AAA Four Diamond awards—more than
any other resort in the world. Now it's building the largest project ever in
market, MGM CityCenter.
With price estimates between $7.5 billion and $10 billion,
this 76-acre complex will mesh various recreation, entertainment, business and
residential towers when it debuts in 2009. There will be the 60-story,
4,000-room hotel/casino, a Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a Harmon hotel,
500,000-square-foot retail and entertainment district, and approximately 2,700
Another upscale resort coming before the year is out is
Palazzo Casino Resort, a sister property to the Venetian. When complete, the
50-floor structure will boast 3,025 luxury suites, a 60-foot glass dome over
the lobby, two-story fountains, imported marble, bronze case columns and
special custom wall finishes. The resort will also have 375 concierge-level
suites and six, three- and four-bedroom villas with media rooms, private pools,
hot tubs, heated spas and personal gyms. Some even have private putting greens.
Wynn Las Vegas, already the epitome of high-end luxury, is
also getting a sister property. When complete in early 2009, the $2 billion
resort will feature 2,034 guest rooms—from executive suites to duplex sky
villas and penthouses—an approximately 72,000-square-foot casino, additional
convention and meeting space, as well as restaurants, a nightclub, swimming
pools, a spa and salon and retail outlets.
"All these projects say this market has clearly shifted
upscale," said Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, co-president and co-owner of
Valerie Wilson Travel. "The caliber of restaurants, shopping and all other
amenities, such as shows, has continued to go up. The whole experience is
different than 10 years ago. It is not about going out to gamble, it's about
the overall experience and people are willing to pay a premium rate for an