COVID-19: Reopening Las Vegas, What Can the Travel Industry Learn?

August 3, 2020

Tips from Las Vegas on a Safe Reopening 

On the week of March 16, 2020, Las Vegas casinos closed down for the first time in history. Awe-striking photos of a deserted strip circulated around the internet, a true sign of the times. After nearly four months remaining almost completely closed down, Las Vegas was one of the first large destinations in the U.S. to reopen on June 4. From casinos and shows, to restaurants and hotels, Las Vegas had to navigate how to reopen safely, and there was no playbook. 

The TSA saw anywhere from 530,000 to 750,000 travelers each day over the month of July. According to Fletch Brunelle, VP of Marketing at Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), the number of people that passed through Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport has been in the 155,000 to 162,000 range for the past three weekends. Though these numbers are substantially lower than pre-COVID-19, the data is clear, people are still interested in traveling to Las Vegas. 

When Las Vegas announced it was opening, Sojern data showed a 40% increase in searches to the destination. It’s one of the top searched and booked destinations in our global data recently. However, a lot of work has to be done to return to pre-COVID-19 figures, as Las Vegas was setting a record pace for the number of visitors they were seeing. 

Big Changes and Creativity to Drive Visitation

Social distancing, wearing face masks, temperature checking stations… not typical sentiments that come to mind when thinking about a trip to Las Vegas. However, these are a part of the new (likely temporary) Vegas experience. Advertising has changed. Images showcasing “no mask no dice” and the new “fashionable” tan lines resulting from a face mask are what’s helping driving attendance for Vegas right now. 

Technology innovations are helping create new safety measures. Virtual and mobile check-ins, and using your phone to open the door are just a few of the processes you will encounter on arrival. Wynn Resorts properties and The Venetian, both owned by Las Vegas Sands, are using thermal imaging cameras at every entrance to intercept people with fevers. Smaller operators in Las Vegas and Reno will offer hand-sanitizer and other safety measures. While the casino’s policies vary, they’re doing their part to keep Las Vegas safe and sanitary. The overall goal for the reopening is to keep fun, health, and safety at the center of operations. 

Casino owners and operators are also offering up creative ideas to encourage travel. Derek Stevens, the owner of The D Las Vegas and the Golden Gate Casino downtown, offered 1,000 free one-way airline tickets to Las Vegas to get visitors to return. All the tickets were claimed on The D Las Vegas’ website within two hours, and when Stevens added another 700 free tickets, they were also immediately grabbed by travelers anxious to get out and explore Las Vegas. 

Even local airlines are getting on board to help drum up business for Vegas. Allegiant, the Las Vegas-based airline that typically markets to leisure travelers, plans to begin pitching work-from-Las Vegas travel packages in late August, including nonstop airline tickets and a hotel room using the slogan “fly, stay, work and play”.

The LVCVA was thoughtful in their messaging prior to reopening, telling guests they were “getting ready for them to come back when the time was right”. When the reopening was official, the LVCVA “Now Open Campaign” showcased the city opening as if they were “turning on the lights” on the Las Vegas strip.

Using hashtags like #VegasSmart helps them ensure visitors are smart and healthy about what they are doing when they arrive in the destination. Brunelle says #VegasSmart means being mindful of surroundings, thoughtful of others, keeping distance, wearing a mandatory facemask, and washing hands. 

They’ve also focused intently on advertising to drive markets, as their data has shown the importance of these markets right now, which was to be expected for the reopening. Sojern data has reflected the same in markets across the US for months. The LVCVA has highlighted their reopening especially in key drive markets like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix. They’re also seeing quite a bit of air travel from Dallas, Houston, Denver, and Atlanta. 

Sojern’s Webinar Series: Reopening Las Vegas, What Can the Travel Industry Learn? 

Check out our webinar with Fletch Brunelle, VP of Marketing at Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority, to hear what they learned from the reopening. Hear feedback and advice, based on real world examples, that you can apply to your hotel, attraction, or destination, followed by a live Q&A with our experts.

Please download the slides here

For real-time insights specific to your region or country, check out our insights dashboard.