Las Vegas City Center To Be A Green Project
The buzz surrounding the newest project-Las Vegas City Center is that its going to be a green development project estimated to cost around $8 billion pumped in by MGM MIRAGE and Dubai World. The first building is scheduled to open at the end of 2009 and the project includes a resort casino, two non-gaming resort hotels, and almost 500,000 square foot retail and entertainment space and also will feature a $40 million public fine art program. The core team of designers includes green-minded architects like Pelli Clarke Pelli, Foster + Partners, and Rafael Vinoly. The developers have made a conscious effort to include tradesmen who are educated in green building practices. MGM MIRAGE has trained over 10,000 construction trade and craftsmen on green building techniques that are already being practiced at the site.
August 4, 2008
LAs VEgas, your new gay destination?
LAS VEGAS – On a recent night at the Palms Resort and Casino here, young men in fitted shirts and an abundance of hair gel clamored to get into a Playboy Club party featuring female card dealers in bunny costumes. Steps away at another club, hundreds of shirtless men crowded a roaring dance floor at party billed as a “non-stop weekend of sensual sizzle and decadence” for the gay community.
The juxtaposition of such divergent groups is likely to become more common as the gambling mecca, after years of ignoring the gay and lesbian market, courts it with vigor. Major properties on the Las Vegas Strip are now offering lavish commitment ceremonies to same-sex couples (though same-sex marriage is illegal in Nevada), as well as special hotel and entertainment packages geared specifically toward gay and lesbian travelers. Some resorts have mandated sensitivity programs to teach employees how to make gay and lesbian travelers feel welcome.
Las Vegas began courting the gay community a few years ago as part of a broader effort to target a range of minority audiences. But the gay-targeted campaign intensified as casino-commissioned market studies showed the gay and lesbian travel market to be among the most lucrative. According to research from Community Marketing Inc., a gay and lesbian market-research company, gay and lesbian travel accounts for $55 billion of the overall U.S. travel market.
Harrah’s marketing directly
Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. started marketing to the gay and lesbian community 18 months ago after research showed gay men spend an average of 30 percent more than their straight counterparts when traveling.
“That was a key statistic that caught our attention,” says Michael Weaver, vice president of marketing for Bally’s, Paris Las Vegas and the Rio – all owned by Harrah’s.
Now, Vegas casinos, clubs, hotels and spas are marketing themselves as “gay friendly,” with ad campaigns in gay media such as OutTraveler and Advocate magazines and cable channel Logo featuring images of same-sex couples holding hands at romantic dinners, and checking into hotel rooms together.
The fight for gay and lesbian tourists also reflects a major shift in Vegas culture, as the casino industry continues to remake itself into an upscale, luxury destination with an ever-growing menu of pricey gourmet restaurants, spas and opulent hotels. The city’s hotel supply is expected to grow 5.8 percent each year through 2011, according to a Bear Stearns analysis.
“Vegas has come to realize and respect the power of the gay and lesbian dollar,” says John D’Alessandro, the former executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association. “They want folks who can afford the expensive shows and restaurants. I think they looked at these demographics and realized ‘It’s a dream market and we have to fight for it.’ “
While Vegas has never shunned gay and lesbian travelers, it has never offered them much either. Until two years ago, when the nightclub Krave became the first gay club to open on the Strip, gay tourists looking for convivial company were relegated to an off-Strip corner of the city known for its small cluster of gay bars.
In the forward of Steve Friess’s “Gay Vegas: A Guide to the Other Side of Sin City,” published in August, the author jokes that when he first told people he was writing a book on gay Vegas, the typical response was that it was going to be a very short book. Since then, the landscape has changed dramatically, he says.
“It really did happen overnight,” says Mr. Friess, who committed to his partner in a ceremony at the Palms in March.
Commitment ceremonies are offered by MGM Mirage at several of its properties, part of an aggressive marketing campaign begun last year “to communicate a welcome message … to potential lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers,” according to an MGM Mirage marketing synopsis.
In one advertisement for the Chapel at Luxor, the manicured hands of two women cut a wedding cake together. The tagline reads: “Declare your love for each other loud and proud.”
“As we learn more and more about the travel trends of the gay and lesbian market we are very excited about our brands. We’re learning it’s a very strong market,” says MGM Mirage’s vice president of marketing, Chuck Bowling.
The casino-commissioned research also showed that most gay tourists in Vegas are couples. Harrah’s decided that Paris Las Vegas, its romance-themed property, was best suited to market to gay couples.
Mr. Weaver, the company’s marketing vice president, says the next step was preparing employees. If guests ask Paris employees where to find gay bars, employees are ready with a brochure on gay-friendly spots. Reception clerks have been instructed not to assume two men checking into a room with one bed must have made a mistake in the reservation.
Moment of truth
It’s a small detail, Mr. Weaver says, but an important one.
“For a lot of gay travelers the moment of checking in is a bit of a moment of truth. It is one of the key moments when you realize, Oh, will I be accepted or will I be actually welcome?’ ” says Mr. Weaver, who is openly gay.
The hotel now has a Web site dedicated specifically to gay travelers, www.gayparislasvegas.com, which it uses to attract – and track – gay and lesbian guests booking at the hotel. The Web site features a video playing romantic music as a camera pans over two men’s razors, two bottles of aftershave, and two champagne glasses, with a note that reads “After-After shave.” The site touts Paris as “the ultimate destination for gays and lesbians.”
But Mr. Weaver says the hotel was careful not to alienate the general market, and from the beginning resisted remaking the property into a “gay hotel.” Instead, he says, the company focused on marketing its wide range of attractions.
Still, gay advocates and tourism experts aren’t predicting that Las Vegas will abandon its strip-club and bachelor-party roots. Discretion, they say, will probably be the watchword for some time to come. As Mr. Friess puts it: “I just don’t know that it’s a good idea to be holding hands at the Nascar Cafe or Margaritaville.”
November 7, 2007