‘Safety’ Seen As Crucial in Getting Tourists Back to Las Vegas: Casino Experts

Posted on: November 15, 2020, 10:05h. 

Last updated on: November 15, 2020, 10:30h.

The key to boosting tourism in Las Vegas depends on how safe travelers feel, according to casino industry experts.

Las Vegas craps table
Customers participate in a craps game at a Las Vegas casino, seen here. Resorts are enforcing health measures, such as mask-wearing, to address the coronavirus pandemic. (Image: New York Times)

“Everything concerning getting people to come back to Las Vegas, for business or leisure travel, relates to safety,” Alan Feldman told Casino.org. Feldman, who spent 30 years with MGM Resorts, is a distinguished fellow in responsible gaming at UNLV’s International Gaming Institute.

The coronavirus pandemic and a surge of violence on the Las Vegas Strip have contributed to a decline in tourism in recent months, according to industry experts.

Arrivals and departures at McCarran International Airport are down more than 60 percent in September 2020 compared to the same month a year ago. That means 2.6 million fewer people used the airport this September.

Also, several people have been hospitalized in shootings and fights at different sites on the Las Vegas Strip. This has raised concern about the impact on tourism.

People wanting to gamble have options outside of Nevada. Casino gaming is legal in 44 states at 944 casinos, according to the American Gaming Association website.

Feldman said tourists will stay put unless they have a comfort level about their safety.

“Until people feel safe in traveling, they will make a decision to stay home, or closer to home,” he said.

Hope on the Horizon

News that the pharmaceutical company Pfizer has a vaccine that could be 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 buoyed hopes in the tourism industry. However, health experts said widespread usage could be many months away.

Feldman said COVID-19 containment is one factor in the “complex, multi-layered issue” of attracting people back to Las Vegas.

“It involves not only the public health issues of vaccines or other preventative measures, but also safety measures implemented by properties themselves,” he told Casino.org.

Resorts in Nevada have taken steps to address health safety, such as mandatory mask-wearing.

Some Las Vegas hotel-casinos also have enhanced their in-house security in response to violent incidents on the Strip. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department also has beefed up its presence in tourist areas.

Safety also is important in attracting conventions back to Las Vegas, Feldman said.

Conventions are seen as important to weekday hotel room reservations. Some resorts are not accepting midweek reservations now because of low demand.

Once the public understands the measures that are in place to assure their safety and, critically, have confidence in those measures, then we will start to see a return to convention business,” Feldman said.

Casino historian David G. Schwartz told Casino.org that the allure of Las Vegas will be appealing again once the public feels safe regarding the pandemic.

“People are going to want to travel to Las Vegas,” he said.

New Casino Strategies

Las Vegas resorts also are embracing new concepts they hope will attract tourists.

Circa Resort in downtown Las Vegas and the Cromwell on the Strip are adults-only hotel-casinos. Also on the Strip, Park MGM is the resort corridor’s first smoke-free casino.

Feldman said these strategies are promising.

“There are many customers, leisure as well as casino, who find kids distracting,” he told Casino.org. “For more than a decade, there has been a consistent increase in demand for smoke-free rooms and smoke-free areas in the casino. So, I think both of these initiatives are likely to succeed, as there is established customer demand.”