There was a time when a Las Vegas hotel room was just a place for visitors to lay their heads between sessions at the slot machines and buffets.
And the rooms looked like it, too: four walls, a no-frills bed, stark lighting and a small television. But that was "Vegas, then."
In the "Vegas now," hotel rooms have become a guest's home away from home.
Following an industry-wide hospitality trend and the feedback of a more savvy and sophisticated tourist than ever before, local resorts are remodeling their rooms with their guests' utmost comfort in mind.
Not that resorts didn't care about comfort in the past; rather, hotel rooms weren't designed so much with the idea of keeping guests in them than with providing them a place to sleep and change clothes, says Scott Voeller, vice president of marketing for Mandalay Bay.
The resort recently completed an 11-month, $154 million room remodeling project in which 3,223 of 4,334 rooms were given floor-to-ceiling makeovers.
Gone are the tube televisions, cumbersome wall-units and Polynesian style bedspreads and drapes, replaced by 42-inch flat screen plasma televisions, sleek furniture, contemporary, modern decor and pillow-top beds with Downlite bedding. Hypoallergenic, of course.
The rooms are airy, light and comfortable.
"When The Hotel came online it was a real breakout product," Voeller says, referring to Mandalay's luxury boutique hotel tower known for its sleek, modern design. Mandalay's new room style evokes the spirit of The Hotel's room design. "What we tried to do with these rooms is make them contemporary and comfortable. Our goal in the design in these rooms was to complement, not compete, with The Hotel."
Guests will receive new, standard amenities including cordless phones, docking stations for their MP3 players, the plasma televisions and an upgraded mini-bar with disposable cameras. Each bathroom features a 15-inch LCD television, too. Wireless high-speed Internet access and in-room safes have been upgraded.
While resorts have an in-house department that is responsible for everyday repairs and maintenance, complete room remodels are done once every five or six years, depending on the property, resort officials say. Each time, the latest styles and decor are used but in ever-changing Las Vegas, trends burn out fast. What looked great then can look dated and cheesy now.
For example, take the Excalibur's lighting fixtures in its rooms: two clasped golden hands holding a torch. It fit with the whole castle theme, says Lynn Holt, Excalibur's vice president of sales marketing and entertainment. The whole room had a "royal" feel to it with thronelike chairs and majestic decor. It's obviously kitschy now but then, Holt says, designers weren't being funny.
Excalibur's new rooms were designed with guests' feedback in mind, Holt says. They're comfortable, inviting and understated.
Guests, Holt says, are burned out on themes and wanted a more understated product. Though the resort is themed as a castle and boasts a large midway and game rooms and seems kid-friendly, 20 percent of guests are families traveling with children, he adds. The goal of the remodel is to make amenities fit the other 80 percent. The beds have been upgraded to pillow tops and the tube televisions replaced by 42-inch plasmas.
The remodeling project started in 2006, with the final phase slated to be completed in 2010, Holt says. Each phase will cost about $30 million So far, 2,000 of the hotel's 4,000 rooms have been completed.
"The television is the 'wow' in the room," says Excalibur's president, Renee West. "Guests have this technology at home, they expect to have it here."
Before, the primary reason visitors came to Las Vegas was to gamble. Now, visitors come for the entertainment, shopping, dining and, in some instances, to be pampered. They want to sleep in, wake up in a luxurious setting, go for a spa treatment and sit by the pool.
That's why there's no danger of making hotel rooms so comfortable that guests won't leave them during their stay, resort representatives say.
"Guests like to relax in their rooms. Used to, it was somewhere to rest their heads," Voeller says. "I think when our guests book Mandalay Bay, they're looking for an upscale hotel where they can have a resort experience."
The Mirage just started a $110 million room remodel project, the last phase in an overall transformation of the resort, says Franz Kallao, vice president of hotel operations.
The tropical theme, obvious in the current rooms, will be downplayed, instead featuring contemporary and elegant designs, Kallao says. Lighting, bathroom fixtures, furniture and decor will be changed to give an upscale residential feel to the rooms and suites.
Each room will feature a pillow-top mattress, down comforter, feather pillows, 42-inch LCD television, MP3-compatible clock-radio, cordless phone and ergonomic office chairs. Cotton robes will now become a standard amenity, too.
Gaming used to be 70 percent of business, says Robert Leck, vice president of hotel operations for the Sahara. Now it's 20 to 25 percent and a hotel's rooms are a good way to make an impression on guests.
A room renovation is planned for 2009; Leck would not say what the resort has in mind, other than to make the Sahara more of a boutique hotel.
"Las Vegas is now a lifestyle experience," Leck says. "It's where you're waking up. It's the spa treatment to begin or end the afternoon. It's the dining experience. It's not just a statistic of putting heads on beds."
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 380-4564.