Strip gaming revenue is down again. Station Casinos is mired in bankruptcy and controversy. So is The Fontainebleau. Vegas' gambling industry is hurting badly, so what can the casinos do to lure the tourists back into town?
It seems that it really does take the worst recession in a generation to get the creative juices flowing again. Steve Wynn is now offering trip packages for visiting SoCal'ers including a semi-private jet ride, limo and champagne service, and 3 nights at either a Wynn resort room or Encore resort suite starting at just $1,200. If I were still in Orange County, I'd probably save up my pennies to take up this offer. Come on, who doesn't like living in "the jet set"?
LVCVA is releasing new "What Happens Here Stays Here" ads that they hope will encourage tourists to forget the pains of the recession and explore their naughty sinful side here. Will it work again like it did to end the last tourism slump just after 9/11? I guess it's worth a try, especially if Vegas can commit to keeping the fun alive and not "sanitizing" The Strip too much.
Meanwhile, the luxury ante keeps getting upped higher and higher... Especially with CityCenter hotels starting to open in less than two months!
So are we moving in the right direction again? Not if you believe the "Old Vegas" enthusiasts who still miss the $4.99 buffets, Rat Pack impersonator shows, Mafia control, and liberal comp policies. And yes, there are probably a whole lot of tourists out there who think The Strip has become too "high class", "corporate", and expensive. But hey, isn't that why we have Downtown?
But really, the big casinos must be doing something wrong if the tourist numbers keep falling and they're suddenly making all these changes. So are they the right changes?
It's probably too soon to know. Once we have figures for the second half of this year, we'll get a better idea of what's working and what isn't. Still, I feel I must opine yet again on the continuing controversy over what went wrong and what Vegas needs to do to hit the jackpot again.
First off, "Old Vegas" has left The Strip for good. No really, it's left pretty much everywhere along Las Vegas Blvd. south of Sahara. And honestly, that isn't really a bad thing. People my age no longer associate Vegas with The Rat Pack and the mob. It's OK for The Strip to keep up with the times.
However, it's not OK for Vegas casinos to bilk tourists and basically steal from them. For far too long, they were getting away with overcharging guests for inadequate food, substandard accomodations, and ridiculous "nightlife concepts". Hopefully, this recession has taught them the important lesson of not taking customers for granted. Not all tourists long for "Old Vegas" cheapo-weapo, but they certainly do expect value and real bang for the buck.
If the hotel claims to be 4 or 5-star, the room must be spacious and comfortable. If the restaurant charges $30+ for an entree, the food had better be tasty and utilize quality ingredients. And if the casinos demand gmablers, they should offer better odds and real rewards.
Treat the customer right, and the businesses will be rewarded. Respect The Golden Rule. The customer is always right.
It wasn't necessarily the tackiness, but rather the standard of service and bang for the buck that always seemed to work for Vegas in the past and make us "recession proof". Perhaps if the gaming industry returned to those good ol' fashioned values, we can see another revival of this town and our grand Strip.