In 2014, Las Vegas broke the 40 million visitor mark for the first time ever, drawing a record 41.1 million guests. For an encore, the city set another new milestone in 2015 by exceeding 42 million visitors, according to statistics compiled by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). “Las Vegas couldn’t have reached this achievement without the support of our resort partners and the dedicated workers who make the Las Vegas experience what it is,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the LVCVA, in a written statement. Not surprisingly, he attributed the city’s ongoing success to its “luxury resort experiences, world-class dining and exciting entertainment.”
Hotel and resort companies clearly expect this growing trend to continue. The city’s room count is projected to jump from just over 149,000 in 2015 (year-end estimate) to more than 154,500 by the close of 2018, based on projects that are under construction or have been proposed.
Existing hotels are not resting on their laurels as activity from just the past six months or so can attest.
Aria Resort & Casino, for example, introduced the ARIA Tower Suites in December. This new collection includes 258 suites ranging from the 920-square-foot Corner Suite to the 2,000-square-foot Executive Hospitality Suite. Guests receive a curbside greeting, a welcome amenity and a special turn-down service, and can enjoy the new Tower Suites Lounge. Guests of the Tower Suites also get access to the Aria Concierge team, who will confirm all travel details, book show tickets and make dinner reservations.
The Linq Hotel & Casino completed its full resort renovation last summer. Designed with Millennial travelers in mind, there are 2,253 newly renovated guest rooms, developed in partnership between Caesars Entertainment Corporation and Elkus Manfredi Architects. There are 244 suites and two urban-inspired loft penthouses. Another accommodation option is the 25-poolside cabana guest rooms, which are the first of their kind. Guests are encouraged to be social at the signature lobby bar and pool deck. The two pools at Linq have views of the High Roller, and guests can unwind on the wet deck and lily pad daybeds along the main pool. The second pool is on a stand-alone, elevated deck.
Wynn Las Vegas and Encore have a new option, introduced late last summer, that should appeal to repeat guests: The resorts’ apartments and villas are now available for rent. The Wynn Fairway Villas and the Encore Three Bedroom Duplex are both available and include a variety of amenities. The 5,829-square-foot Encore Three Bedroom Duplex comes with a private massage and exercise room, a grand living room and dining room that can accommodate 16 guests. The highlight of this duplex is the floor-to-ceiling windows and views of Las Vegas.
The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Convention Center expansion is now complete and the final phase of Mandalay Bay’s resort-wide, multi-year transformation — the $100 million redesign of more than 3,000 guest rooms and suites — wrapped up in February. The resort comprises three hotels, including Delano.
Tribute Portfolio, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., announced in November the addition of SLS Las Vegas, doubling the brand’s footprint globally. The resort, set on the North Strip, comprises more than 1,600 rooms and suites along with some of Las Vegas’ hottest nightlife and culinary venues. Two towers with 1,324 rooms are now being operated as SLS Las Vegas, a Tribute Portfolio Resort.
The other 289-room “Lux Tower” will be converted to a W Hotel after a renovation, which will be completed later this year. The renovation will include a new lobby, a dedicated entrance for W guests and 14,500 square feet of new event space. There will also be a signature Away Spa, a pool deck and bar and more.
SLS Las Vegas joins Starwood’s four existing hotels in the market, which include The Westin Las Vegas Hotel, Casino & Spa, The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa, Four Points by Sheraton Las Vegas East Flamingo and Element Las Vegas Summerlin.
The Park on the Strip
With a repeat visitor percentage that hovers around 80 percent year after year, it’s prudent for Las Vegas to always have a little something new to show these “regulars.” Perhaps most notable for 2016 is that the Strip now has its first true park — MGM Resorts International unveiled “The Park” on April 4; it connects the New York-New York and Monte Carlo resorts, as well as the T-Mobile Arena.
“Today’s consumer wants to sample, to experience, to discover — it’s no longer about visiting one resort and staying there,” said Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, in a written release. “With this in mind, we’ve created a neighborhood environment that invites our guests to explore many of our resorts on the Strip’s west side, collecting experiences along the way, with The Park serving as a central gathering space for people to relax, dine and be entertained.”
The Park, created by Cooper, Robertson & Partners, !melk and Marnell Architecture, is inspired by iconic plazas, promenades and squares from the world’s greatest cities. It includes various common spaces for socializing, relaxing and exploring. Guests can take advantage of patio-style seating beneath mature trees. There are also shade-giving abstract structures, water walls along the entrance and live entertainers and street performers.
If visitors feel like snacking, Shake Shack, Beer Garden, California Pizza Kitchen, Sake Rok and Bruxie are among the eateries to be found at The Park.
More New Experiences
Speaking of eating, the last several months have seen a cornucopia of new restaurants, bars and lounges. Among these are establishments overseen by celebrity chefs such as Roy Ellamer, Mario Carbone and Alain Ducasse (at Bellagio, Aria and Delano, respectively), innovative Asian restaurants (at Caesars Palace and The Venetian) and craft bar experiences (at the Cosmopolitan and The Mirage), among others. And more are on their way.
Although several resort pools are open year-round, the “official” pool season gets under way in April and runs through September. These are mostly adults-only and a few are even clothing optional. The hottest news on the wet-and-wild front is the brand new Sky Beach Club at The Tropicana — complete with waitresses in bikinis, DJs and entertainment to liven up weekends on the Strip.
In February, The Mob Museum, the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, added a permanent display from “Breaking Bad,” the award-winning crime drama broadcast from 2008 to 2013 on AMC. The display represents the latest addition to the Museum’s growing collection of items from movies and TV shows portraying organized crime. Artifacts included in the display contain the yellow HazMat suit worn by Bryan Cranston in the scenes where his character, Walter White, was cooking meth. Two gas masks and a rubber apron worn during the series will also be on view.
Also new at the Mob Museum this year is a temporary display detailing the 2015 prison escape of notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The centerpiece of the display will be a scale model tracing Guzman’s escape through tunnels dug beneath his cell inside Mexico’s Altiplano federal prison.
Donny & Marie, Mike Tyson, Bruno Mars and the Marvel Super Heroes are the newest of the more than 100 wax exhibits at Madame Tussauds Las Vegas, adjacent to The Venetian. For daring couples looking for a raucous way to say “I do,” Madame Tussauds Las Vegas is now home to the world’s first wedding chapel inspired by the movie “The Hangover,” complete with Jägermeister shots, Elvis as the minister, and “Phil” and “Alan” as witnesses. The new chapel, which can accommodate weddings of up to 30 people, is now the centerpiece of the attraction’s newest themed room, The Hangover Experience.
Opening this spring, the $30 million SpeedVegas motorsports complex offers a 1.5-mile supercar track, multilevel welcome center, large event center, café and much more. SpeedVegas is a destination for not only exotic car enthusiasts, but also anyone and everyone seeking an exhilarating, only-in-Vegas-style experience.
Celebrating its second anniversary this spring is the Las Vegas High Roller, the world’s tallest observation wheel. Rising to 550 feet above street level — more than 100 feet taller than the London Eye — the High Roller has 28 glass-enclosed cabins that can hold up to 40 passengers each. Riders can enjoy unparalleled views of the Strip and surrounding valley during the 30 minutes it takes the wheel to complete one full rotation.
Las Vegas Visitor Volume
2015 42.3 million (estimate)
2014 41.1 million
2013 39.7 million
Source: Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority