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Positive signs emerge for Las Vegas tourism

A video of a fight that went viral at the Encore and negative attention heaped on Las Vegas last week will soon be forgotten and won’t deter visitation and prompt any major increase in rates, marketing experts said.

Wynn Las Vegas kept the spotlight on the matter last week when it filed a lawsuit against 20 people involved in the Labor Day weekend fight after a man threw cash in the air. Wynn also said not only would it increase security but would raise its room prices going forward to its pre-pandemic rates.

There’s plenty of optimism after the first NFL weekend. Coronavirus cases continue to decrease, making more people comfortable traveling here. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority launched its national advertising campaign last week to lure visitors to Las Vegas, especially since conventions have come to a halt. That campaign touts Las Vegas as a safe place to visit amid COVID-19 and another on NFL Sunday touted watching games in sportsbooks.

The vehicle traffic numbers from the Nevada Department of Transportation show that between Sept. 2 and Sept. 9 — the most recent data available — that every single day had more traffic coming from Southern California. It was up more than 50,000 vehicles over the latest two-week period. That’s good news after visitor volume was down 61% in July.

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Nehme Abouzeid, president and founder of LaunchVegas and former chief marketing officer of the Vegas Golden Knights, said the most prevalent take on Las Vegas on YouTube and other social media channels from traveler influencers has been positive over showcasing trips here.

“They’re saying it’s a nice place to visit, and there’s space at the pool and floor and how Vegas is less crowded than it usually is,” Abouzeid said. “They’re starting to see the benefits and silver lining in this softer period.”

Abouzeid said he’s not surprised Wynn announced it is increasing rates. It’s a five-star resort and trying to maintain its luxury brand. That happened in the aftermath of the 2008 and 2009 Great Recession. As for other resorts, they will monitor guest complaints and any problems, but rates will be set by what the market will bear, Abouzeid said. The average daily room rate on the Strip was $116 in July — the most recent numbers available — was down 15% from $136 in July 2019.

Josh Swissman, founding partner of The Strategy Organization, said Caesars Entertainment opening up the Linq and MGM Resorts International planning to open Park MGM doesn’t point to any immediate increase in room rates when demand is well behind 2019. That softening of demand prompted Wynn offering a promotion open to anyone for a stay at its tower suites in which the third night was free, he said.

“That was pretty aggressive,” Swissman said. “I could count on one hand in the 20 years I’ve been in the business the number of times I’ve seen a company offer promotions like that for anybody off the street. Maybe that increase in room rates just happens at the luxury-oriented properties.”

Brendan Bussmann, a partner with Global Market Advisors, said even if resorts started raising rates, which he expects will “creep up,” rooms won’t cost people what it did a year ago. The best deals will be midweek with a lack of convention visitors.

“I think some may follow Wynn, but I looked at room rates and it was $43 to get into Caesars. I never thought I would see that. Some will say I want to get my occupancy up as high as they can and let’s pack them in. It depends on the company’s philosophy. Wynn is the only true five-star experience on the Strip other than the non-gaming properties.”

Abouzeid said because there won’t be any conventions in October and the rest of the fall, casinos will take a measured approach to raising rates. Football could have the biggest impact, he added.

“If we see a pickup and people are coming here to watch football on Sundays they will take a look at it and yield up as needed,” Abouzeid said. “But we have after Thanksgiving to Christmas, which has always been a weak time and now we don’t have the NFR (National Finals Rodeo that relocated to Dallas) to help out. This could be a challenging period (for room rates).”

Even though the Raiders won’t host fans at Allegiant Stadium, Abouzeid, who worked with sportsbook operator CG Technology for their marketing, said he expects people will still want to come to Las Vegas to watch and bet on the games at sportsbooks just for the energy of the city. The LVCVA advertising during NFL games will help that along, he said.

“I’m worried about midweek when we have nothing to drive business, but Saturdays and Sundays will be strong,” Abouzeid said. “Football and sports betting will be a bright spot. People have COVID fatigue and will come here to cheer their team on.”

As for the fight, Bussmann said there would need to be repeated altercations and viral videos for Las Vegas to suffer any damage to its reputation and visitation.

Swissman said anything that makes people feel less safe isn’t a good look for Las Vegas, but said there’ve been videos like that in the past. And it’s naive to think there won’t be videos like that which surface in the future.

“They don’t paint the city in a good light, but one video doesn’t have a tremendously damaging long-term effect,” Swissman said. “If that becomes the norm and more proliferate, there is a perception that creates.”