WITH EACH UPSCALE PROPERTY THAT OPENS in Las Vegas, the city takes one step closer to living up to its name as the entertainment capital of the world, making it a destination not just for gamblers but also for foodies, theater buffs and spa addicts.
In 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority found that roughly 60 percent of the city's cash flow came from non-gaming revenue—a pretty eye-opening figure considering there are at least 30 casinos on The Strip alone. Hoteliers are aware of this trend, ensuring that revamps and new builds focus on such amenities as spas, shopping and fine dining. Wholesalers, meanwhile, are expanding product offerings with luxury hotel packages featuring an array of add-on activities.
Funjet Vacations (www.funjet.com) is changing the way it packages travel to Las Vegas after examining the media habits and purchasing patterns of visitors to the city. "More than half of the money spent in Vegas is going to restaurants, clubs, shopping and entertainment, and though we've always had those add-ons, what we're seeing now is increased demand for them," says Mike Going, chief marketing officer of Funjet, which has distributed Vegas product since its inception. "Visitors are pre-purchasing things like shows and spa or golf packages for girls' and guys' getaways or pre-and post-wedding activities."
Travel Impressions (www.travimp.com) has seen an increased interest in Las Vegas dining, as such well-known chefs as Mario Batali launch restaurants and celebrity hotspots like Koi open in various hotels. Batali just opened B&B Ristorante at The Palazzo (www.palazzolasvegas.com), an extension of The Venetian. Koi recently made its debut at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino (www.planethollywoodresort.com).
"We've seen a large growth in dining, shopping and shows, so we look for offers that include spa treatments, or maybe some type of an upgrade," says Sallie Rawlings, spokesperson for Travel Impressions. "We're always keeping our eye on the new luxury products. The whole destination is so product-oriented."
That's a point Funjet's Going believes agents often forget. "LVCVA stats will tell you that total visitor traffic is much less agent-dependent than it was five years ago," he says. "Some of that is the impact of people who live close by and frequently make the quick hop over, but many of the agents I talk to have let go of the selling opportunity because they are maybe of the mindset that they can't make money on Vegas.
"That's a grand [misconception]," he continues, "because when you add up the hotel, a few shows and attraction tickets, you'll make a very strong sale."
Also keep in mind that some suppliers are finding that consumers who are interested in non-gaming activities are more apt to book a hotel off The Strip. "Those people aren't necessarily interested in the casino experience," says Nico Zenner, general manager of wholesaler Travel Bound. "They want something more exclusive."
Las Vegas currently has more than $30 billion in projects under construction or in the planning stages, with at least 11 properties due to make their debut between 2008 and 2011, according to the visitors board. Most of these hotels have an eye on the luxury market and feature a variety of amenities.
For example, Palms Place, a 50-story condo hotel and spa tower at the Palms Casino Resort (www.palms.com), will open in 2008, as will the $500 million Trump International Hotel & Towers, offering a private spa and to-be-announced gourmet restaurant. In 2009, MGM Mirage (www.mgmmirage.com) will unveil CityCenter, which, in addition to a casino and Las Vegas' first Mandarin Oriental, will contain a variety of dining and entertainment options.
Upcoming shows in Vegas include Cirque du Soleil and illusionist Criss Angel at Luxor (www.luxor.com) and another Cirque du Soleil performance, based on the life and music of Elvis Presley, at MGM Mirage.
While this addition of hotels, spas, restaurants and theatrical productions does not appear to be letting up anytime soon, in Las Vegas there is no such thing as oversaturation. "The trend toward luxury has been going on for a few years, but it's more pronounced now," says Travel Bound's Zenner.
"You could argue it's been a constant escalation—a competitive day-by-day race for hotels to increase the restaurant experience, the theater, the spa," says Going of Funjet. "Las Vegas is a destination that continually reinvents itself with an increased scale of execution."