If you think 2008 was a bad time to open a travel Web site focused on Las Vegas, then you're not Brett Reizen.
Sure, Sin City's visitor volume is off by double digits, but that hasn't hurt prospects for Reizen's BestOfVegas.com site. Since the Web site went live in March, it's boosted employee counts by 35 percent. It also increased sales from $50,000 in its first month to more than $1 million a month by the summer.
Reizen, president and chief executive officer of the site's parent company, Florida-based Entertainment Benefits Group, said he took a chance on the slowing local market because the business had assembled big operations in markets such as Orlando, Fla., and New York.
"We built up the infrastructure to support (a Las Vegas site)," he said. "We felt the time was right for us to come in and create something that wasn't there."
Offering those new services has been key to BestOfVegas.com's early success, Reizen said.
The Web site directly connects to Strip box offices, so if a show experiences a slow sales night, BestOfVegas.com can quickly offer seat upgrades or discounts to customers. The company tracks seasonal variations in tourists' habits so it can create a constant stream of ready-to-run promotions. It links to streaming video for consumers looking for a sneak peak at Strip productions. It posts weekly articles featuring the latest Las Vegas-related celebrity gossip. And thanks to the company's automated box-office access, it can handle ticketing and promotions for 35 percent to 45 percent less than it costs unconnected competitors, Reizen said.
"We look to be a strategic partner. We're all about creating a win-win, whereas other companies might just try to sell tickets for the most money," Reizen said.
BestOfVegas.com's hotel partners include the Palazzo, The Venetian, Wynn Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, Mandalay Bay, Bellagio and the MGM Grand, among others. Its entertainment partners include Cirque du Soleil, Le Reve and comedian Wayne Brady.
Other companies can learn from BestOfVegas.com's foray into Las Vegas, Reizen said. His key rule: Focus on excelling at one thing. When Reizen started Entertainment Benefits Group, it provided both travel services and gift cards. Reizen quickly realized the company didn't have the expertise and programs to do well in both areas, so he opted to concentrate on the travel business.
"You want to try to be successful at a limited plan, and grow off that success rather than trying to conquer everything at once," he said.
Nor does Reizen let a slumping economy deter his outlook.
"Instead of looking at the downturn as a negative, look at it as an opportunity to show your true colors and take advantage of opportunities," he said. "You need to be cautious, but if you can make it out of the downturn, you've really shown what you're made of."