Las Vegas business leaders are counting on a strong bounce back in tourism by the end of 2021 and said sporting and entertainment events at Allegiant Stadium and across the city are expected to lead the recovery.
Once the coronavirus vaccine gets into arms and a herd immunity is developed by the fall, that will coincide with the Las Vegas Raiders playing before fans for the first time and the holding of concerts and other entertainment. The Golden Knights will resume play with fans at T-Mobile Arena and the National Finals Rodeo will return to the Thomas & Mack Center. The NASCAR race in September will likely have fans in the stands too.
Beyond sports, the opening of Resorts World Las Vegas in the summer provides another reason for people to visit.
“With the reopening of Allegiant Stadium for the Raiders and all of the events scheduled there, it’s exciting, and we’re thrilled about that,” said Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority who along with Circa Las Vegas owner Derek Stevens spoke to members of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. “It’s also a driver of our recovery. Having those types of events provides some urgency and certainty with dates that people need to be there on that date.”
Hill said many leisure travelers surf the web for room rates and air fares and look for flexibility in their travel schedule. Sports fans or those attending a concert or another event, meanwhile, are locked in to come to town.
“That is a helpful driver in bringing the destination back,” Hill said.
Stevens, the former owner of the Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball team, is excited with what the year will bring to Las Vegas and its recovery from COVID-19. He said there’s a lot of pent-up demand to come to Las Vegas and that Circa, which opened its casino Oct. 28 and hotel just after Christmas, hasn’t been hurt like other properties because it doesn’t rely on convention business that will continue to lag.
“Las Vegas has always been resilient,” Stevens said. “I always thought Las Vegas was a great leading indicator of the economy in our country. Las Vegas is a city that can help lead America forward, and I would expect Las Vegas to come back at a roaring level.”
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Stevens agrees on the importance of sports helping with that recovery. He said he will be especially excited when the Raiders play on a Monday night and Thursday night because it will increase room nights on what are typically softer days. It also is free advertising for the city it benefited during the team inaugural season here.
“We are an event-based community from watch parties to going to sporting events and concerts,” Stevens said. “We will get over this and take it to the next level.”
Stevens predicted a Major League Baseball franchise is in the city’s future, and that it would have the biggest economic impact of any sport because it has 81 home dates and baseball fans travel.
“Las Vegas can use more room nights from May through August,” Stevens said “There are 30 major league franchises and eventually there will be 32. I think there will be a major league team here, and I think it will be great for Las Vegas when that happens.”
While he’s optimistic about the long term, Stevens admits the current situation is dire and the economy continues to struggle during the pandemic. He urged Congress to pass additional stimulus for Americans that has been proposed by President Joe Biden and how it would help the gaming industry.
“I think in the short term it is apparent the stimulus is needed,” Stevens said. The $600 (per person in stimulus) went out and hopefully there will be a little bit more in the next couple of weeks.”
Hill, meanwhile, predicted it will take until March after vaccines start rolling out in greater scale to make a difference on visitation to Las Vegas.
As Las Vegas moves through the last part of the first quarter and into the second quarter, you will see people feel more confident as health numbers get better, Hill said. Travel sentiment has tracked the health environment and should be moving in a positive trajectory in the coming weeks and the second quarter will be brighter, he added.
“When the vaccine rolled out several weeks ago, we saw a 24 percent jump in intent to travel to Las Vegas in the next six months,” Hill said. “There is a lot of pent-up demand, and our brand is still who we are. We are the place you can come to escape, and there’s plenty to escape from now. We bring excitement and freedom, and people miss that.”
Hill said based on their surveys Las Vegas visitors recognize the city has taken steps to make them feel safe and that they are being taken care of when they are here. It polls higher than other destinations, and that will be important because health consciousness will remain elevated for some time, he said.
The LVCVA surveyed convention and meeting attendees who attended a conference prior to March 2020, and it showed 91% are burned out over Zoom meetings. Some 77% said in the survey they are longing to come back in person to conventions.
“We feel good about Las Vegas being in just a great place to lead this recovery,” Hill said. “I’m counting on (chief medical officer on COVID-19) Dr. (Tony) Fauci being right, and that by the end of the year we’re going to be back to normal.”
Hill said conventions will change with hybrid shows where people will come to Las Vegas and others now able to view from where they live and work. He said like a sports team that televises home games, that will set the stage for those who view virtually to want to come to Las Vegas in the future for the in-person conference.
Another change caused by COVID-19, Hill said, is that because more companies have their employees work from home instead of an office, their employees are more dispersed. That may prompt companies to hold more in-person meetings to make up for that, and Las Vegas stands to benefit.
“There is no better place for that workforce to go than the value Las Vegas provides,” Hill said. “It provides opportunity because of the work-from-home phenomenon.”