Courtesy of Detroit1051, that's what this 40-year resident thinks. Here's his description of a recent trip to the heart of Nevada's economic engine (after the jump):
"A friend had an extra ticket to Tony Bennett at Caesars, the Colosseum, so I went last night. I parked at Cosmo, to walk the Strip a bit like the old days, what a shame. The Strip is filled with people dressed like cartoon characters, a guy standing on the Bellagio corner preaching Jesus, blocking foot traffic with 6 people handing out papers, the illegals still handing out t-bar and working lady numbers. It's WORSE than the CONEY ISLAND I grew up in, during the 50s and 60s. What a depressing way to start my night. The Strip hotels HAVE to put an end to this nonsense, its cheap feeling, low class, and embarrassing.
The Bellagio fountains now dance to Michael Jackson music, it's great, I loved it!
Tony Bennett's show opens with his daughter, who sings 4 songs, I'll be kind, she wouldn't make American Idol's top 10 in a weak year. He's 80ish, I'll show respect. Very little effort, I left early which I never do. I hope not too many people paid cash money. I would have LOVED to see video of his old day appearances on various shows, who he worked with over the years etc, what he sounded like years ago live, nothing, zero, just the singing which sounded like the same song over and over again.
COSMO, the crowd is so young everyone I saw could call me grandpa, but some very serious talent working the bars, not that I had any interest.
All my fears from years ago have come to pass, the college boy gamers spent billions building on the Strip that now needs low overhead grind joints, for young people and a low class crowd. If I was coming as a tourist I would stay downtown and it's going to get even better in 5 years as the zappos guys rebuild downtown. WICKED is in the SMITH CENTER in September, if you are coming to Vegas, check it out. You can still get tickets and walk to downtown and eat downtown as well. The Strip has lost its way, something has to be done!"
There's obviously a lot of stuff there. Let me break it down:
1. Strip safety/aesthetics/vibe
This is the area that is easiest to talk about objectively. There's clearly been a major shift on the Boulevard in the past two years. The County Commission's been discussing it for a while, but it doesn't seem like much has been done. I'm not sure what the benefit of having pornslappers 25 feet from each other will be, and that seems to be the crux of the county's response to the problem.
There are two responses to the Strip. One is to say that people come to Vegas for fun, and that fun includes guys in urine-stained Minnie Mouse costumes and all the other characters we've become fond of over the past two years. Three-card monte, drug dealers, and pornslappers are also part of the "anything goes" mix.
The second is to say that people who come to Vegas want a modicum of order and safety, and that they'd like to be able to walk from point A to point B without being hustled every few steps.
I tend to side with the second POV. After all, if people really wanted to go to an immoral sink of depravity for their business/leisure travel, they'd go parasailing with the Cali cartel or something. I think that by and large Vegas visitors don't want to push the boundaries of public safety, and they don't really want to feel uncomfortable; they want to have fun. That includes drinking, gambling, and relatively tame escapades.
2. Entertainment bang for the buck
This is a totally other issue, and one that the correspondent only alludes to. Most Strip shows are on the expensive side. I suppose most visitors rationalize this by saying it's a once-a-year expense, so it's OK to pay more. Otherwise, people who would never dream of paying $50 for a 2-hour movie wouldn't pay $100 and up for a 90-minute show.
They're willing to pay, but are they getting their money's worth? This is totally in the eye of the beholder. I can't recall ever getting as excited about a Strip show as a really riveting movie or book. I've had fun at some shows, and there are even a few I'd buy a ticket for, but I'm guessing I'm not really the target demo here. The last show I saw was, I think, VIVA ELVIS, which I sat through for the purpose of adding a dimension to my "Live After Death" Vegas Seven feature. As you can tell from the article, I didn't exactly love it.
I'm not sure how much of this is a generational/life stage thing. With two small kids at home, it's not easy to get out of the house before 8:30 or so, even if you have someone to watch them. That means we set the bar pretty high. Honestly, nearly all of the invitations I get to media nights, sneak previews, etc, don't even get a second look because it's such a hassle. (Imagine all those free hors d'oeuvres I've passed up!)
But there's something deeper to it. I've gotten pretty used to entertainment on demand. The thought of having to show up at a particular time for a show isn't feeling quaint yet, but it's definitely not as natural as it once was.
I went off on a bit of a tangent there, but I'd be interested in hearing what other people think. Is entertainment as much a part of your vacation travel as it used to be?
3. General Strip bang for the buck
Five years ago, I would have said the answer to this is simple. Casinos have to drop their room rates, lower their menu prices, and loosen their slot machines, and everything would be all right.
But the Recession proved that's not true. When casinos lowered room rates, guests didn't spend more on F&B and at the casino; instead, they carried in pizza or fast food to eat in their rooms. That's what killed the Sahara (well, one of the things that killed the Sahara), and it's what's killing the LVH right now. Casinos found that by raising their room rates, their gaming and F&B revenues actually rose. So don't look for room rates to come down in the future, or any casino but a totally desperate one make a value play. It's hard to say it, but cutting prices would destroy the Strip just the same as raising them too much would.
Like hotels everywhere, Strip resorts will lower prices when demand falls and raise them when it rises. Expecting otherwise is like hitting on twenty.
That being said, I think that the Recession saved the Strip from another wave of gentrification. You've now got clearly defined high-, mid-, and low-price tier properties. I'd feel a lot better if the lower-tier places would drop their F&B prices a bit, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen. If you're catering to the mass market, there should be an option that lets people get lunch for $25/couple or dinner for $50/couple that isn't awful.
4. Downtown is the place to be
This was interesting, since Downtown is really in a transition and, proof to the thesis that dropping prices doesn't help the bottom line, has suffered far worse than the Strip during the Recession. What's interesting to me is that the author mentioned the Smith Center and the Downtown Project (the latter indirectly) as reasons for people to visit Downtown. I say it's interesting because the casino folks I talked to almost universally de-emphasized the Smith Center as a tourist attraction, instead saying that it would be something for locals. Most of them thought it would most directly impact casinos by being a recruiting tool. It'll be that, but it'll be a lot more, too.
As far as the Zappo's/Downtown Project goes...I've written something about that for Vegas Seven that you'll hopefully be reading soon. I expect to be writing a lot more about it over the next year.
So those are my thoughts on Detroit's friend's thoughts. What are yours?