Today’s Las Vegas customers come from a broad range of interests and affinity groups; they may never spend a dime in a casino during their stay, and they are more knowledgeable than ever about Las Vegas.
Many are younger than their predecessors, interested in outdoor adventures during their Vegas vacation and apt to travel in small groups.
Those are among key trends in the leisure market for travel to Las Vegas, according to industry members.
To learn more about the Las Vegas customer today – and about how agents might best position the destination to potential customers – Travel Market Report spoke with Las Vegas travel insiders. Here’s what they said.
Special events crowd
Although visitors remain interested in traditional Vegas highlights – including shows, spas, food and beverage – they’re more likely now to be drawn to Las Vegas because of event marketing that appeals to their interests, said Jeff Eisenhart, vice president of leisure sales for MGM Resorts International.
“We use special events, both on a grand scale and more intimate level, to bring the customer in. Examples include our recent Mexican Independence Day celebrations; the Barrett Jackson Car Show; Floyd Mayweather fight; Jimmy Buffet or Eagles concerts. We’re even doing an October-themed Fright Dome at Circus-Circus.
“Smaller events that also show great results include food and wine pairings and art gallery exhibits,” Eisenhart said.
Agents: use the events lure
The lesson for travel sellers: expand your notion of the potential Las Vegas customer by looking at the destination’s incredible array of special events and tie-ins.
“I expect all of Montreal to show up again, now that Celine (Dion) is back. And, you would not believe how the town fills up for Rod Stewart,” said Bab Daitch, a Las Vegas custom tour operator.
“Travel agents need to know that these kinds of attractions are a real pull. It’s where they’ll find customers interested in coming to Las Vegas today,” added Daitch.
Warm weather fans
Karen Kimmey’s Las Vegas clientele is influenced not so much by special events as by natural events – namely, the weather. Kimmey owns OK Travel, a Chicago travel agency that has specialized in Las Vegas since 1989.
“We’ve had a terrible summer, and a lot of folks want to go to Vegas for the pools. All the resorts have reinvented their pools as an entertainment destination with pool parties and other activities that are pretty attractive to us,” said Kimmey.
Avid golfers who are too impatient to wait for the ground to thaw in the Midwest make up a large portion of Kimmey’s Las Vegas clientele in the winter months, she added.
Small groups & lovers
In recent years, Kimmey has also noticed distinctive trends take shape when it comes to Las Vegas.
“I rarely get just one couple coming in to have me book a trip to Vegas for them. It’s usually three or four couples going together. Las Vegas has very much become a cluster destination,” said Kimmey.
Bachelor/bachelorette parties and destination weddings make up a large part of Kimmey’s Las Vegas business. She credits movies such as the “The Hangover” for creating the image of Las Vegas as “an adult Disneyland,” with a little naughtiness factor and sense of adventure thrown in.
Families, younger crowds
In her decade as a tour operator, Daitch has seen the city’s customer profile change in a number of ways.
“Folks that used to come for a short visit during events like NASCAR are now staying longer and making family vacations out of it. That’s especially true in the summer time from drive-up states, such as California, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico,” she observed.
Another trend Daitch notices is the city’s growing appeal to a younger crowd.
“It used to be we’d only see the 20-somethings during spring break. Now, they’re coming in groups and spending more money.
“A lot of them want to try active programs, such as nature hikes in Red Rock Canyon during the day. Then, at night they want to go to the ultra lounges, eat trendy food and spend a lot of money on drinks,” said Daitch.
Daitch noted that niche marketing by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors’ Association is bringing in disparate groups. One example is the gay and lesbian traveler.
“Las Vegas is already a pretty gay-friendly destination. The LVCVA is helping to increase that clientele by outreaching with events such as Gay Nights Las Vegas,” said Daitch.
At the same time, one of the town’s former star attractions¬ – gaming – has been on the wane for some time.
“Casinos are pretty empty on nights when you’d traditionally see them busy,” observed Daitch.
If there’s a common factor across the different age, interest and affinity groups visiting Las Vegas today, it’s that they’re more discerning than in the past. “The customer of today definitely knows Las Vegas better,” said MGM’s Eisenhart.
One reason: Las Vegas hotels, resorts, tour operators and entertainment experiences maintain a far-reaching social media presence – one that agents can tap into.
“Customers today are looking at our Facebook and Twitter feeds. They are especially interested in reading reviews from other consumers on sites such as TripAdvisor,” said Bryan Kroten, director of marketing for Maverick Aviation Group, a Las Vegas provider of helicopter excursions.