Las Vegas is expected to see increased tourism in coming months from new attractions and events, prompting area hotels and resorts to gear up for what could be a significant boost in guest levels.
The city, which saw 40.5 million tourists from June 2022 to June 2023 (up 8.7% year over year), is one of the top entertainment destinations in the U.S.
And its entertainment options are growing. At the end of next month, MSG Entertainment’s $2.3 billion Sphere venue is set to officially open. The spherical structure, featuring a 580,000-square-foot fully programmable LED exterior, will host immersive experiences, corporate events, marquee sporting events and concerts, including its inaugural U2 show.
Another highly anticipated event in Las Vegas this year is international racing competition Formula 1’s Grand Prix in November, to feature a 3.8-mile track winding around some of the city’s top resorts, including Caesars Palace, Bellagio Hotel & Casino and The Venetian.
Super Bowl LVIII will also be hosted in the city, at Allegiant Stadium in February, and MLB team the Oakland Athletics is bringing its new ballpark to a portion of the 35-acre Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort.
With several major tourist drivers on the horizon, area hotels and resorts anticipate strong performance, including increased occupancy, in the second half of this year and beyond. To prepare, some are introducing property enhancements and new promotions.
To keep up with visitor demand, the city’s entertainment offerings are ever-evolving, Lori Nelson-Kraft, senior vice president of communications for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, told Hotel Dive.
The Sphere, she said, will bring a mix of repeat travelers to Las Vegas and also introduce the city to a new group of visitors who may not have considered it before. “The Sphere is very high profile. It's the first in the world, and to give Las Vegas that center stage for its debut is an incredible opportunity for our tourism community.”
While it’s been reported Formula 1 will bring 150,000 visitors to the city, and the Super Bowl will draw 450,000 travelers, Nelson-Kraft could not quantify the estimated number of visitors the Sphere will generate.
Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg said in a Q2 2023 earnings call with investors that “major events happening in Las Vegas” (citing Formula 1 and the Super Bowl) will likely keep guest volumes robust and increase occupancy rates in the next six to nine months.
During MGM Resorts’ second-quarter earnings call, CEO Bill Hornbuckle said he is “encouraged by the pacing of both Formula 1 and the Super Bowl,” calling Las Vegas “the world’s premier sports and entertainment destination.”
Las Vegas hotel companies have kept fairly quiet about the impact of the Sphere on tourism to the area, however.
In their Q2 earnings reports, neither Caesars nor MGM pointed to the Sphere opening as having any significant impact on future performance.
When asked about the opening directly, both Caesars and MGM declined to comment on the Sphere’s anticipated impact on their businesses. The Venetian and Wynn Las Vegas also declined to comment on the venue.
While highly anticipated by some, the Sphere’s construction and launch didn’t go without issue. In April, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on a series of lawsuits filed in connection with the venue’s rising construction costs. The next month, the same outlet reported that the Sphere was to refund hundreds of disgruntled U2 ticket holders over sight obstruction concerns.
According to David Schwartz, a professor focused on hospitality and gaming at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, the Sphere, “like any attraction,” is likely to lure visitation to Las Vegas by new and returning visitors. Schwartz said he hasn’t noticed anything to indicate that hotels are concerned by the Sphere’s opening, though that “doesn’t mean they’re not concerned,” he said.
Projects and promotions
Though several prominent hotel companies remain tight-lipped on the Sphere’s opening, Nelson-Kraft has noticed area hotels and resorts are working on room upgrades, restaurant remodels and general sprucing up in light of the upcoming events in the city.
“Everyone has been incredibly invested,” Nelson-Kraft said. “They’re very excited and understand that these opportunities give Las Vegas the world stage, and everyone is doing everything they can to show off their hospitality, their customer service and what they have to offer.”
One major hotel project Nelson-Kraft noted is Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a 67-story luxury resort and casino set to open in November. Fontainebleau will add to the 151,000 existing hotel rooms along the Strip and the surrounding areas, Nelson-Kraft said.
Caesars is also underway on the $100 million renovation and renaming of the Jubilee Tower at Horseshoe Las Vegas to the Versailles Tower at the adjacent Paris Las Vegas, slated for completion in early 2024.
Schwartz, however, noted there always tends to be a quick life cycle of development happening in the city, so the ongoing construction activity may be unrelated to any upcoming events.
Beyond renovations, some hotels are offering promotions in line with upcoming events. For Formula 1 specifically, Nelson-Kraft said, many hotels and resorts in the city have partnered with the race to “create very experiential and one-of-a-kind hotel room packages.”
Ellis Island Hotel & Casino is one of those hotels, announcing Monday its partnership as an official venue of the Las Vegas Strip Circuit for Formula 1’s Grand Prix. The resort is offering exclusive viewing and hotel packages for the event, available by booking directly through the Ellis Island website.