Calling Independent Planners
Updated Dec. 15, 2021.
The reaction of gaming resorts to the pandemic has been something
of a bellwether for the hospitality and entertainment industries,
notably in the gambling hub of Las Vegas. The casinos were some of the
first to close en masse in mid-March of 2020, and they subsequently led the way
in crafting the protocols that would be required for them to reopen. Now, more than a year and a half later, the news in Las Vegas bodes well for the greater travel and meetings industry.
In July, a mandate was imposed that requires everyone to wear masks indoors in public spaces, even if they are vaccinated. The rule covers 12 of the state's counties, including Clark County, home to Las Vegas. Clark County also requires that venues hosting indoor gatherings with more than 250 people submit a Covid-19 plan for approval. Gatherings of all sizes are allowed in the state. Clark County, however, has reimposed a mask mandate for employees working indoors. Masks are not required at events with more than 4,000 people if all are vaccinated. Masks are required at all gatherings that don't meet the large-event requirement.
An updated version of the Nevada Guidelines for Safe Gatherings provides detailed information about the requirements for meetings in a wide variety of venues and situations. The Large Gathering Venue Covid-19 Preparedness and Safety Plan includes instructions for how to submit the proposal for approval.
Each of the city's facilities has its own set of health and safety protocols. Wynn Las Vegas was one of the first companies in the country to publicize such guidelines, in the form of its 23-page Health & Safety Plan,
released in April 2020. MGM Resorts International, as part of its Convene with Confidence plan, has partnered with CLEAR's Health Pass to offer on-site health screenings, and with Impact Health for rapid Covid-19 testing.
For its part, the Las Vegas Convention Center was the first facility in the state to earn the Global Biorisk Advisory Council Star accreditation. And the Las Vegas airport, which has been renamed the Harry Reid International Airport, has outlined its extensive practices regarding sanitation and health screenings.
Back to Business in Vegas
Las Vegas tourism is rebounding more every month. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 3.39 million people visited the city in October, up 83 percent from October 2020.
Forging into the future, the Consumer Technology Association has confirmed that CES will indeed happen live in Las Vegas Jan. 5-8, 2022. Typically, that massive technology trade show has drawn 150,000 people to town. Following the digital-only event that was held this past January, organizers are promising a hybrid approach that welcomes visitors online as well as in person.
Here’s a look at what’s open now and what current development promises to bring to the city over the coming months.
The newest hotel complex to open in town, the $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas, continues to roll out new amenities. The latest: Three robotic, AI-powered puppies are welcoming guests in the lobby of the Conrad Las Vegas. The Aibo-built little canines — Sinatra, Stardust and Elvis — are housed in custom-built playpens. The 1,496-room Conrad is one of three Hilton properties on-site, along with the 1,774-room Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World and the 236-room Crockfords Las Vegas, an LXR Hotels & Resorts property. The massive complex has partnered with AEG on a 5,000-seat, on-site theater with an extremely spacious, 13,550-square-foot stage. Resorts World has also worked with Zouk Group to bring several outlets on-site, including the Zouk Nightclub, AYU Dayclub, RedTail social-gaming bar, and FUHU, an Asian-influenced high-energy dining venue.
The Las Vegas Convention Center’s $1 billion expansion is complete, and its 1.4 million-square-foot West Hall has been hosting events since June. The new space has plenty of natural lighting and 600,000 square feet for exhibits, including a 328,000-square-foot, column-free space. The hall also offers an open-air atrium with a 10,000-square-foot digital screen, as well as a 14,000-square-foot terrace that accommodates receptions for up to 2,000 attendees.
The underground transport system known as the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop, built by Elon Musk’s Boring Co., began operating in June. Tesla vehicles transport attendees in tunnels underneath the convention center campus, traversing in just two minutes what would otherwise take as much as 25 minutes to walk. Resorts World will soon debut its own underground station, connecting the new property to the convention center line. Plans also call for a 29-mile underground network expansion known as the Vegas Loop, connecting 51 stations in the resort corridor and beyond. That project, which was approved by the Clark County Commissioners in October, will most notably connect the Convention Center Loop to the Strip, downtown and Harry Reid International Airport.
The 3,933-room Bellagio embarked on a renovation of its main tower early in 2021, updating its 2,568 rooms with a new design and upgraded amenities.
Caesars Entertainment recently unveiled a $200 million renovation at Harrah’s Las Vegas, which includes 2,542 redesigned guest rooms and a remodeled casino. The property’s remaining 1,622 rooms were redone in two phases, three and five years ago.
Another new feature at Harrah’s is a skybridge that connects the hotel to Caesars Forum, the 550,000-square-foot conference center that debuted last year. The hotly anticipated facility — which hosted Meeting Professionals International’s WEC in June and Cvent Connect in August — adds a good deal of in-demand meeting space to the center Strip area. The Forum features two 110,000-square-foot pillarless ballrooms, two 40,000-square-foot ballrooms and 110 breakout rooms — all within walking distance of about 20,000 hotel rooms, 8,500 of which are operated by Caesars. Adjacent to the facility is the 100,000-square-foot Forum Plaza, which borders the Linq Promenade’s outdoor shopping and entertainment area.
Circa, the first new resort to be built in downtown Las Vegas since 1980, opened its doors late in 2020. The 777-room, adults-only property features the tallest hotel tower north of the Strip, at 458 feet. The property has a unique pool amphitheater, Stadium Swim, which is open year-round. Other amenities include a two-story casino; a sportsbook with a massive, 78-million-pixel screen; and the Legacy Club, an 8,400-square-foot indoor/outdoor venue with a terrace and 360-degree views of the city.
What’s Coming Soon
Hospitality and entertainment company Hard Rock International has agreed to acquire the operations of the Mirage Hotel and Casino from MGM Resorts International for $1.075 billion. Hard Rock is buying the Mirage's operating assets, subject to customary working capital adjustments, and will enter into a long-term lease agreement with VICI Properties for the building's real estate. The resort will be rebranded as the Hard Rock Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, and plans call for a guitar-shaped hotel tower to be built on-site.
Rio Las Vegas, which was sold by Caesars entertainment in September 2019, will soon fly multiple flags from Hyatt Hotels Corp. The hotel company announced a multiphased renovation project that will include the brand conversions. The first phase will redevelop the current public spaces in the 2,510-room Rio, including the casino, retail shops, F&B establishments, spa and fitness enter, and pool deck, as well as one of the existing hotel towers. The renovated tower will become a 1,501-room Hyatt Regency. Following further renovations, the resort's remaining guest rooms are expected to be converted to one or more additional hotels under Hyatt's full-service brands. The completed complex will offer more than 220,000 square feet of meeting and event space. A timeline for the project has not yet been announced.