The Strip Bounces Back


The Strip in Las Vegas
The Strip will soon be home to Caesars Entertainment’s compact entertainment and dining district.


While resorts have adjusted their rates and begun offering discount packages, the recession hasn’t had a major effect on the type of traveler who wants to vacation on the Strip in Las Vegas.

“The demographics haven’t changed noticeably,” says Kevin Bagger, senior director of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association. “We have 300-plus properties with a combined 150,000 hotel rooms. Part of the things that help us sell Vegas is that we have something for each demographic and price point. We have a lot of products attractive to baby boomers, since the average visitor is around 50 years old.”

The reduced rates and package deals have created an opportunity for travel agents to capitalize on and have brought more guests to Vegas hotels. “The hotels have been very effective in their packaging and discounting,” said Bagger. “Talking to our hotels, that has been very popular and very effective.”

Increased air routes into McCarran International Airport have provided travel agents with cheaper options and more flexibility. “The trends are going in the right direction so far, based on the data we’ve seen, and [so is] the feedback demand,” says Bagger. “When gas prices spiked in 2008 and carriers throughout the country reduced their fleets, Vegas was impacted. We’ve gradually seen improvements, and average air capacity for 2011 has been up 3 percent. This is good news for us to generate demand in feeder markets, now that there are seats available.”

Looking to the future, Caesars will complete its Nobu-branded Centurion luxury tower in 2012, and recently announced a $500 million entertainment project to create a world-class spectacle for the 21st century. “Project Linq” will give rise to a 550-foot Ferris wheel and a dining and entertainment district in the corridor between the Flamingo and Imperial Palace casinos.

“We’ve really been looking at this project since 2007, when it was put on hold due to the economy meltdown,” says Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government affairs for Caesars Entertainment. “When we began talking to customers about what they wanted that wasn’t here, what really came out was that Las Vegas has a lot of beautiful properties and entertainment but doesn’t have a district where people can meet and congregate in a more condensed setting.”

This may be part of a generational shift already under way among Las Vegas visitors, which Caesars hopes to capitalize on with its new project.

“Las Vegas needs diverse entertainment offerings that focus on the fact that non-gaming spend has been exceeding gaming spend,” says Jones. “We project that by 2015, 52 percent of revenue will come from the Gen-X and -Y customer. This project shows the market will evolve as it always has.”

The LVCVA has done a bit of soul-searching during the recession to best reinvigorate the Only Vegas brand. “One thing we’ve done in the course of the recession was an in-depth brand planning project,” says Bagger. “One thing that came out was the value proposition of Las Vegas that really reinforces the volume of experiences you can enjoy. You have the upcoming Caesars Linq project reinforcing the value proposition as well.”

New This Fall

Unique high-profile entertainment events will hit the Strip in full force. From December 3 to 27, Cirque du Soleil’s newest show Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour will be staged at Mandalay Bay. The show combines Jackson’s legendary music with his iconic performance style and the acrobatic techniques of Cirque du Soleil. The farewell performance of Disney’s The Lion King at Mandalay Bay will be on December 30. Celine Dion begins a yearlong residency at Caesars Palace on December 28.

Chef Michel Richards, winner of the James Beard award, will preside over Central Michel Richard, set to open this month at Caesars Palace. His unique French-inflected take on American cuisine will be open 24/7.


The Bellagio’s
The Bellagio’s room upgrade will be completed by December; here is one of the 500 already redone.


The Bellagio just completed the first phase of its $70 million guest room renovation, upgrading 500 rooms with a sleek, modern look. The hotel’s remaining 2,500 guest rooms will be ready by December.

“I’ve been with the company 19 years and every few years we undergo refresh of some type,” says Jeff Eisenhart, VP of leisure sales and marketing, MGM Resorts International. “We’re also beginning a remodel at MGM Grand in October, going into 2012. It is necessary to remodel to continue to bring the customer back. That’s just the nature of being a luxury hotel in Las Vegas.”

Eisenhart believes travel agents can offer their clients great deals by taking advantage of the aggressive bundling by MGM’s hotels. “We’re selling the entire portfolio better than we ever have,” he says. “Where before we had 13 individual properties, we now do a better job communicating everything we have in our company on the leisure side. We run some promotions to our operators but now have offers through our entertainment side.

“We understand what the customer is looking for,” he adds, “so we’re putting out attractive rates and added value in packages.”

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