With visitor numbers on the uptick, a repeat visitor rate of 84 percent, and more than $6 billion in projects under way in Las Vegas—from the Strip to Downtown—this sleepless city, embraced by stunning high desert scenery, continues “to deliver on expectations of visitors and provides a new and different experience for every visit,” says Art Jimenez, sr. director of leisure sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).
New hotels? In 2014, “boutique” hotels—think Delano and SLS—will be all the rage. A Ferris wheel? Why of course; no respectable glitzy destination can do without one of those. Art exhibits, new shows, dining venues that up the ante? Britney Spears is giving Celine Dion, who’s back at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, a run for her money. Renovations? For starters, the front facades of New York-New York and Monte Carlo will be transformed into an outdoor plaza experience featuring a series of casual bars, eateries and retail destinations, all set to be completed by early-2014. So if you thought you knew Vegas, think again, because this destination is diving into the future with a whole lot of dazzling additions that are sure to make it an even bigger hit with your clients in 2014.
As Tony Yousfi, executive director of sales for ARIA Resort & Casino, points out, “The energy and excitement in Vegas, along with the pampering and indulgence, is unmatched.”
whirlwind tour of new goings-on
We wish we could take you on the private tour of Las Vegas that the LVCVA gave us a couple of months back, but we’ll do the next best thing and give you a peek at some of the new things that are popping up all over the city.
For starters, in early-2014 Vegas is going to hit a home run in the hotel inventory department when the 188-room Gansevoort Las Vegas opens its doors on the Strip. Part of Caesars Entertainment Corp, the property will feature Parisian apartment-style guestrooms, including 19 suites, a 40,000-sq.-ft. casino, a 65,000-sq.-ft. indoor/outdoor nightclub and rooftop pool experience, and a restaurant with “Food Network” personality Giada De Laurentiis at the helm (her first restaurant, in fact).
Another uber-trendy hotel name will also make its mark in 2014—Delano Las Vegas is set to open in the fall as part of the Mandalay Bay resort complex with 1,100 guestrooms and suites. Adding to the autumn renaissance will be the SLS Hotel & Casino Las Vegas at the north end of the Strip. With 1,600 guestrooms and suites, SLS Las Vegas will feature The Bazaar by Jose Andres, Katsuya by Starck and retail by Fred Segal, among other goodies that have yet to be announced.
Perhaps not new, but certainly unique, MGM Grand has expanded its Stay Well rooms, which are ideal for jetlag victims, from 42 to 171 and they now encompass the entire 14th floor of the hotel’s main tower. Stay Well room amenities include wake-up light therapy, vitamin C shower infusion and dawn simulator alarm clocks, although sometimes the best “medicine” for a little jetlag is a morsel of chocolate, which brings us to the aforementioned New York-New York redo. One of the highlights here—and one chocolate aficionados will want to be first in line for—is the Hershey’s Chocolate World flagship store, a 2-story interactive, experiential destination. And while chocolate lovers are busy personalizing sweet gifts, travelers who want to get a bird’s-eye view of Las Vegas can head on over to Linq, which is part of Caesars Entertainment and which will be opening in phases beginning next month. Says the LVCVA’s Jimenez, “This project is something that is not currently offered in Las Vegas—an outdoor dining, shopping and entertainment district located center Strip. This development will provide a central meeting place for groups before a night on the town.” Anchoring this development, he adds, will be the aforementioned Ferris wheel, the 550-ft. High Roller, which, he points out, “will not only be the world’s largest, but the first of its kind in the U.S.”
Over at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, meanwhile, Britney Spears will start strutting her stuff starting this New Year’s Eve. “Britney: Piece of Me,” currently set for a 2-year residency, will be housed in a nightclub/theater space. And speaking of nightclubs, Ghostbar at Palms Casino Resort just received a head-to-toe makeover as part of the resort’s $50 million renovation.
No doubt, this city is constantly hitting the refresh button, and it’s a miracle anyone gets any rest, although when clients do want to get away from the maddening crowd, we recommend ARIA, with, incidentally, some of the most comfortable mattresses we’ve ever slept on—the resort had them custom-made by Sealy.
When stacked up against other properties along the Strip, ARIA is a bit more of a subdued resort without all of the neon bells and whistles. There is, in fact, an abundance of natural light that filters in through the resort’s large windows—a rare feature in Vegas casinos. Yousfi, the resort’s executive director of sales, says, “ARIA is a non-traditional Las Vegas hotel. Instead of a themed resort, ARIA features striking architecture, sustainable design and remarkable art.”
And that art he mentions is indeed over-the-top. We’re talking a collection made up of Claus Oldenburg, Frank Stella, Julian Schnabel and Henry Moore, among others. It’s such an important part of CityCenter, which encompasses Vdara Hotel & Spa, Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas and ARIA Resort & Casino, that guests can request a map of the complex’s fine art collection at the resort’s concierge for a self-guided tour. Adds Yousfi, “We have groups that take advantage of our wellness hikes throughout CityCenter with stops at each work of art.”
When it comes to its culinary arts, ARIA has also stepped up to the plate by providing some of the most eclectic restaurant choices along the Strip. There are tapas at Julian Serrano, noodle dishes at Lemongrass, and Mexican specialties at Javier’s, and that’s just for starters. There are also exquisite chocolate creations at Jean Philippe Patisserie, where guests can savor truffles woven with creamy amaretto and perfect squares of dark cocoa sprinkled with toasted praline. If shopping rather than cocoa is more your client’s thing then they’ll swoon over The Shops at Crystals. This is the place for the connoisseurs of high fashion with boutiques that range from Miu Miu, Tom Ford, and Louis Vuitton, to Hermes and Dolce & Gabbana.
Chocolate…Prada…tapas—what more could a visitor to Vegas ask for? Cirque du Soleil, of course, and ARIA has a new one on its roster, “Zarkana,” which Yousfi describes as “a visually stunning modern acrobatic spectacular,” adding that it will leave theater-goers “breathless.”
Oh yes…there are the rooms, more than 4,000 of them, and, which, Yousfi points out, “greet” guests as they walk in. “Light fills the room, the curtains automatically part to showcase the spectacular city or mountain views, and the TV turns on to display a list of automated controls for guests to personalize,” he says. We didn’t have a single complaint about the spacious and comfortable 520-sq.-ft. Deluxe Room with dual closets we called home during our stay, and service was top-notch and friendly from check-in to check-out. Rates for ARIA range from $129 to $799. For non-gaming clients, recommend the all-suite Vdara, with 1,495 rooms and which is physically connected to Bellagio and adjacent to ARIA.
travel agents, there’s some incentives in it for you
The LVCVA is offering a special reward points program for travel agents that’s an extension to the Cash in on Vegas booking incentive. The program allows retail travel agents to have the opportunity to accrue points for every room night booked in Las Vegas. Through July 31, 2014, travel agents may submit eligible bookings online at trackmylasvegasbookings.com. Bookings must include hotel accommodations bundled with air or land only in Clark County, NV, and travel must be completed by Aug. 31, 2014. For each valid room night booked, each travel agent will accrue 100 points in his/her program account. The points can be redeemed for accommodations, show tickets or activities provided by select merchants.
“Travel agent customers are valuable to Las Vegas,” says Jimenez. “They book further in advance, stay longer and spend more money while they are here.”
don’t leave without…
- Perusing the Bauman Rare Books at The Shoppes at The Palazzo, where travelers might walk away (if they have very deep pockets) with a signed copy of J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.”
- Having a cigar at Andre’s Cigar Lounge, part of Andre’s Restaurant at Monte Carlo. It offers a collection of more than 140 cognacs, armagnacs and scotches and the largest collection of cigars in Las Vegas.
- Viewing the “Warhol Out West” exhibit at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, which has been extended through Jan. 2.
- Touring the 2-acre outdoor Neon Museum, with the world’s largest collection of neon signage; truly unique to the destination as it features the unrestored collection of over 150 rescued architectural landmarks from some of the city’s most famous properties dating from the 1930s to the present.
- Having drinks and looking out over the cityscape from the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas’ Mandarin Bar, located on the 23rd floor of the hotel and featuring floor-to-ceiling windows.
What are some of your favorite spots in Las Vegas? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
tour operator intel
MGM resorts vacations
“One of the most fascinating aspects of Las Vegas is that it is a city that is constantly changing,” says Melissa Backus, director, destination strategy and supplier engagement-domestic, The Mark Travel Corporation. “The excitement of continuous re-invention and rapid growth has helped Las Vegas achieve 39.8 million annual visitors.”
She goes on to say that travel agents should book with MGM Resorts Vacations because they have a choice of major airlines; they can book up to eight people and four rooms in one reservation; they can take advantage of the “Book Now, Pay Later” with the Vacation Payment Plan: and they offer the “best Las Vegas hotels & casinos”: Bellagio, ARIA, MGM Grand, The Signature at MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Luxor, Excalibur or Circus Circus. “MGM Resorts International believes in re-investing in their properties to continually make their properties better,” she adds.
(800) 360-7111; mgmresortsvacations.com
According to Jennifer Halboth, director of channel marketing for the Globus family of brands, “For travelers looking to stay close to home, Las Vegas isn’t usually a very long or very expensive flight. It’s a quick little jump to a vacation oasis.” She points out that there is so much to see and do, “much more than is available in a typical hometown region,” adding that “even if you can’t afford to stay in places like Wynn, Vegas still affords you the opportunity to have a drink at the bar and take in the opulence.” Monograms packages that include Vegas are for travelers who want a little Vegas at the beginning or the end of their Western vacation. For example, Monograms offers the 8-day Canyon Escape and the 10-day Canyon Discovery, both of which begin and end in Las Vegas. “Monograms,” says Halboth, “helps make an up-sell of a normal Vegas vacation to a more complete vacation easy for agents. We help the agent earn a lot more money than they would just booking a few hotel nights in Vegas.”
(866) 270-9841; monograms.com
getting away from the glitz with tauck
Not everyone solely hits the Strip when they go to Vegas. In fact, Art Jimenez, sr. director of leisure sales for the LVCVA, says that visitors shouldn’t miss the outdoor experiences like Hoover Dam or Red Rock Canyon. To explore the destination’s great outdoors, you can book your clients with Pink Jeep Tours Las Vegas, which has launched the Red Rock Canyon with Rocky Gap Adventure Tour that includes a scenic drive and off-road tour, and even an optional horseback ride.
Of course, still others who visit the area only want to take in the great outdoors. Tauck, for example, uses Las Vegas as the final destination for three tours highlighting the region’s national parks: the 8-day America’s Canyonlands; the 10-day Spirit of the Desert: The National Parks of the Southwest; and a Tauck Bridges family tour, the 8-day Red Rocks & Painted Canyons. “The southwestern U.S. is known for its wide, open spaces and for being home to a number of national parks, including Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands and more,” says Tom Armstrong, Tauck’s corporate communications manager.
Armstrong adds that Tauck does assist clients who want to spend a few days in Vegas after their national parks tour. “We’ll assist them with hotel reservations and we’ll provide them with a complimentary airport transfer on their day of departure.”
(800) 788-7885; agent.tauck.com