Friday, May 15, 2009

Ramblings Before Leaving Las Vegas

I have been in Las Vegas for the last several days and am attending the Hospitality Design Expo & Conference. I have read so much about how hard Las Vegas has been hit by the economic downturn but it is difficult to tell by just walking along Las Vegas Blvd. and through the Strip's many hotels. There are still a lot of people here gambling, sight seeing, going to shows, etc.

It is obvious, however, that things are truly not so great here. The taxi driver who picked me up from the airport earlier in the week told me her income has dropped by 50 percent since last September. There are rock bottom rates at most hotels. CityCenter, MGM Mirage's $9 billion project on the Strip, has faced numerous financing troubles. MGM Mirage is $14 billion in debt. CityCenter will employ 12,000 people when it opens later this year. I learned Wednesday during the Green Day portion of the Hospitality Design Expo & Conference that 140,000 people applied for those 12,000 positions. That is certainly an indication of how dire the employment situation is in the Las Vegas area.

Comments earlier in the year from President Obama and his administration about exorbitant travel to places like Las Vegas certainly did not help the city's tourism industry. Many meetings have been canceled. The bottom line, however, is that a place like Las Vegas, located where it is and because of the reputation it has, will always be one of the first destinations to feel the impact of an economic downturn.

I certainly sympathize with the good people of Las Vegas who have been hit hard by this recession. Do I feel as bad for those who own and operate properties along the Strip? Not so much. Why? Here is just one example: If you walk along the Strip you will notice the temperature is much cooler close to many of the hotels and casinos. Why is that? Wide open doors—and I mean very wide open doors—allow air-conditioned air to flow out of building entrances as if money were no object. If those who run these operations have enough money to air-condition the hot Las Vegas air, they are definitely not ready for my sympathy.

Maybe I should not look for logic in a place like Las Vegas.

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