Players flock to hot Strip/Trop corner

Aug 13, 2002 8:11 AM

As Las Vegas rebounds from 9-11 and a sluggish economy, resorts are scrapping to fill every room. Which raises the question: Who’s getting the business?

A GamingToday survey finds that Mandalay Resorts’ Luxor and Excalibur are leading the pack. They are closely followed by Monte Carlo, MGM Grand and the Aladdin, according to top local and national reservations agents.

"It’s hard to explain, but Luxor is tops,’’ says Conrad Prigger, director of hotel reservations for Las Vegas Travel and the National Reservation Bureau.

"Luxor is well-priced and in a good location,’’ explains a reservations supervisor at "It’s next to Mandalay Bay, but it costs far less.’’

In A-to-Z Reservations’ book, Excalibur is No. 1. "Out of a hundred reservations, they get the most. It’s big with families,’’ A-to-Z’s manager says of Luxor’s northern neighbor.

Just up the boulevard, Monte Carlo grabs the "show" ­­position. Labeled a "hot deal," the Mandalay-MGM-Mirage joint venture has built a loyal base of repeat customers. "People are impressed with what they get for their money,’’ said one agency.

Location appears to be the driving force for many Las Vegas visitors who prefer the concentrated action at Tropicana Avenue and the Strip ”” an intersection that boasts more hotel rooms that all of San Francisco.

As Mandalay and MGM-Mirage jostle for position along the southern stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, players are finding bargains elsewhere.

Despite its widely reported financial woes, the Aladdin is the No. 1 seller at "We fill 200 rooms a night there,’’ says Vincent Cortorillo, director of hotel sales for the Prestige Travel subsidiary.

Other sales outlets confirm that the Aladdin grabs a surprisingly large share of business. "I’d rank it right up there with MGM Grand, New York-New York and Treasure Island,’’ said one operator. Another said the suites at Aladdin, Luxor and MGM offer the best bang for the buck.

"I’d give the edge to MGM-Mirage properties for their ability to generate return business,’’ adds one industry expert.

For the high-rollers unfazed by price, MGM’s Bellagio and Park Place’s Caesars Palace continue to fare well. The Las Vegas Hotel Reservation Center reports that Bellagio is already sold out for New Year’s at $1,500 per night. Caesars is running about half that. Park Place’s Paris is also commanding top-dollar and is usually jam-packed.

But with Strip hotel occupancy rates lagging more than 3 percent behind last year ”” and midweek occupancies dipping to an anemic 82 percent ”” Las Vegas’ megaresorts cannot take crowds for granted.

Nor are they seeing as many whales. With air travel down nearly 7 percent, lower-spending drive-in tourists are filling beds, if not casino floors. This means cash flows at high-roller meccas such as Caesars are now being challenged by slightly downscale resorts like Luxor, Monte Carlo and Bally’s.

Value-conscious travelers have zeroed in on two more dark horses: the Stratosphere and the Boardwalk.

"Of 100 reservations, my top four would be Aladdin, Stratosphere, Excalibur and Boardwalk. They get the majority of the business,’’ Cortorillo said. He figures that affordable rooms at these properties leave more money for visitors to spend on tables and slots.

Las Vegas Hotel Reservation Center adds the Sahara, Flamingo and Bally’s to that list, noting that each advertises rooms from $29 to $49. Bally’s and the Flamingo get an added kick as they pick up folks turned away by popular sister Paris.

High-priced resorts such as Mandalay Bay and Venetian also generate large numbers of inquiries, but their lofty room rates send many price-sensitive customers scurrying to lower-tier hotels.

Farther down the food chain are the Treasure Island, Tropicana, Circus Circus and Riviera. "When people discover that Circus is 40 percent less than MGM they jump at it,’’ says the operative for

And then there’s downtown, where reservation companies give the nod to the Plaza and the Four Queens.

"Downtown does well when the $45 Strip rooms fill up,’’ one industry observer concluded.