Las Vegas tourism sees changes in aftermath of shooting
Las Vegas — Las Vegas’ tourism sector is bracing for changes in the aftermath of the massacre that killed 58 people at an outdoor music festival.
Analysts who closely track the finances of the city’s casino companies say Las Vegas will see a short-term dip in visitors in response to the shooting.
Casinos and police may have to impose new security measures after gunman Stephen Paddock brought more than 20 rifles into his hotel room and drove a car filled with explosives into the parking garage.
The “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” slogan has been put on hold, as has one unveiled in the weeks before the shooting by the owner of Mandalay Bay that said, “We are not in the hotel business … we are in the holy s--- business.”
Electronic billboards that typically promote restaurants, concerts, a topless pool and other entertainment are now showing a dedicated phone line for victims and their families, along with words of appreciation for first responders and casino employees.
“We’ve been there for you during the good times. Thank you for being there for us now,” reads a black-and-white billboard message with the city skyline and “#VegasStrong.”
It’s hard to quantify the effect the shooting will have on Las Vegas tourism. Airplanes still carry loads of tourists to the desert oasis, convention-goers fill large halls to discuss the latest industry trends, and slot machines ring in the casinos.
But stock prices of the main Las Vegas casino companies all took a minor tumble after the shooting, in an indication the attack will have some effect on the industry.
Analysts with investment bank Morgan Stanley forecast the shooting will decrease demand for the Las Vegas market for about six months and have a 4 percent to 6 percent economic effect.
The analysts looked into the effect of terrorist attacks on “revenue per available room,” a key gauge of a lodging company’s performance, across different markets to measure the shooting’s potential impact. The report said not all markets are alike.
On Oct. 1, Paddock, a 64-year-old professional video poker player, shattered windows of his hotel suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel casino and unleashed withering gunfire at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival below before killing himself. His vehicle was found at the hotel’s massive parking garage with a potentially deadly cargo of 1,600 rounds of ammunition and 90 pounds of chemical explosives.
In the days after the shooting, visitors found marked police SUVs parked outside their hotels along the Strip. Security employees of the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore casino-resorts used hand-held metal detectors to check bags. Guards asked some visitors to pop their trunks.
But those measures have since been scaled back. A tour of several major resorts found no apparent new security measures other than guards checking room keys at Mandalay Bay.
Mandalay Bay’s parent company, MGM Resorts International, owns more than a dozen properties, including casinos, convention space and arenas on the Las Vegas Strip. Spokeswoman Debra DeShong said in a statement the company has elevated its level of security, but she declined to provide details.
Las Vegas hotel operators must make their guests feel valued and comfortable in the aftermath of the shooting, said Michael McCall, Michigan State University professor of hospitality business. He suggested resorts offer room upgrades or discounted tickets to customers as tokens of appreciation.
But he said many casinos and hotels will tread lightly when it comes to airport-style security in a city where people want to let loose.
“You don’t want it to become a sort of ground zero military-type of operation,” McCall said.
MGM declined to comment on any hotel room or convention cancellations. Caesars said its properties haven’t received out-of-norm room cancellations, and no conventions were called off.
Last week, the National Business Aviation Association convention drew around 27,000 people to Las Vegas. IMEX America, an expo for incentive travel, meetings and events, brought 12,000 attendees.