Chorizo-laden queso fundido, Cadillac margaritas and strolling mariachis promise to fill Las Vegas hotels with plenty of Mexican flavor this weekend.
It’s Mexican Independence Day, and the city is capitalizing.
On any given weekend Las Vegas attracts 300,000 visitors, but this won’t be your average two-day break: In 2012, Mexican Independence Day weekend ranked No. 12 out of the best weekends of the year for Las Vegas in terms of citywide occupancy, which was 94.4 percent.
On the Strip, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is sold out Saturday, while today rates range from $460-$2,500. MGM Grand still has rooms available, but the rate jumped from $85 Thursday to $560 today and Saturday, each night for two queens. At Caesars Palace rates are $369 today and $529 Saturday for a king room.
Caesars Entertainment is expecting strong occupancy today through Sunday.
“We are at full occupancy across the board at all properties for the entire weekend. (We’ve) had very strong bookings for quite some time, and the overall demand has been very robust,” said Eileen Moore, regional president for Flamingo Las Vegas and The Quad.
Downtown, the Plaza has rooms for $109 today and $209 Saturday while the El Cortez has availability today for $160 and Saturday at $260.
As has been true for the past couple of years, charter flights will land at McCarran International Airport en masse. In all, 22 jets that aren’t on regular schedules, coming from 10 different cities, will dock at Terminal 3.
The activity on Thursday morning alone read like a Mexican geography lesson: a 9 a.m. arrival from Veracruz, 9:14 a.m. from Mexico City, 9:15 a.m. from Guadalajara, 9:26 a.m. from Queretaro, near Mexico City, 9:40 a.m. from Puebla, 10:13 a.m. from Mexico City, 10:23 a.m. from Aguascalientes and 10:30 a.m. from Monterrey.
Last year, half of AeroMexico’s 7,700 charter passengers into McCarran flew in September. This year again, Mexico’s flagship carrier dominates the activity.
In 2012, 8 percent of the 39.7 million visitors who came to Las Vegas were of Hispanic or Latino descent. That’s just more than 3 million people, according to visitor counts from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Last year Mexican citizens spent about $10.6 billion on U.S. travel nationwide, up 14 percent from 2011’s $9.3 billion total, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.
This coming weekend, locals and visitors will bear witness to a unified Las Vegas resort community: the entire city is getting behind the travel authority’s El Grito branding campaign and as a result will be offering demographic-specific entertainment and cuisine through Sunday. To help with the promotion, the convention authority is encouraging use of the hashtag #elgritodevegas.
To be clear, El Grito comes from the phrase “El Grito de Dolores,” an event that marked the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence.
The big ticket this weekend is the Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez fight at the MGM Grand Garden on Saturday night, which is sold out at roughly 16,000 people. Cost was $350-$2,000 per seat.
“I came for the fight,” said Edgar Lopez from the town of Tepic. As for the rest of the weekend, he had no plans.
Besides, the fight, Arturo Diaz of Monterrey had tickets for “The Beatles LOVE,” one of the Cirque du Soliel productions. Beyond that, nothing firm was on his agenda, “but we want to do some other things.”
“Everybody came to Vegas for boxing,” added Ariel Ruiz of Obregon, with the other three people in his group nodding in unison. He also had concerts by Carlos Santana and Marco Antonio Solis on his agenda before returning home Sunday.
On Sunday the arena will host Alejandro Fernandez, whose tickets are going for $65-$225.
“Based on our projections, this year’s Mexican Independence Day weekend is expected to be busier than last year on the Strip, fueled in large part by the Mayweather-Alvarez matchup. We anticipate a slight uptick in hotel room occupancy year-over-year, with strong growth in the average daily room rate,” said MGM Resorts International spokeswoman Yvette Monet.
Typically, she said, MGM also sees increased gaming during weekends when there are boxing events.
Other heavy hitters appearing in Las Vegas this weekend include Luis Miguel at the Colosseum, Arturo Sandoval at The Smith Center and Los Horoscopos de Durango at Mandalay Bay. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is hosting Mariachi Al Bronx all weekend and Enrique Iglesias will be at the Boulevard Pool today and Saturday.
Tom Bruny, marketing director for the Fremont Street Experience, said his venue is expecting about 20,000 people Saturday for the Fiesta Las Vegas parade and festival. In its third year, the event was founded by Anastacio Del Real. Cox Communications will broadcast the Fiesta Las Vegas Parade live from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday on Cox Channel 96 and stream it online at cox96.net.