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After shutdown, Las Vegas needs a ‘we-got-through-this-together party’

This, too, shall pass.

That’s the message of hope authorities are providing as we make it past what may someday be referred to as the St. Patrick’s Day Shutdown.

After back-to-back days of devastating news — first, the official cancellation of 2020 NFL draft festivities in Las Vegas on Monday and then the closure of the state’s casinos and nonessential businesses — we are all in a state of disbelief.

I recalled reporting on the 15-day closure of casinos in Macao in February and thinking, “Wow, thank goodness that won’t happen here.”

Wrong.

With the prospect of another 3½ weeks of doldrums, I looked to Billy Vassiliadis for a ray of hope.

Vassiliadis, the boss at R&R Partners, which is contracted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to advertise the destination, expects that once the 30-day closure ordered by Gov. Steve Sisolak ends, visitors are going to come back stronger than ever.

And quickly.

“I think when it comes back, whenever that time frame is, it will come roaring back,” Vassiliadis said.

He thinks the rebound from the shutdown will be different here than in other destinations.

“The other thing we know about Vegas that has been historically true is because it’s considered to be an escape and not the kind of long-term, book-six-months-in-advance or book-all-the-museum-tours-in-ahead-of-time-style for European travel, people will be able to make a decision and call down here and get a room or whatever they want to do,” he said. “That always has been an advantage for us after a crisis, and I don’t think this will be any different.”

While Vassiliadis expects Californians to provide the biggest boost to tourism in Southern Nevada, the scope of the audience for Las Vegas may be much broader.

“They’re going to want to escape, absolutely. Southern California for sure. I think if the demand picks up, we’ll see even outside of California. We’ll see the airlines reschedule and things will pick up again,” he said.

“Also, in California, not unlike Nevada, they move quicker, and so, at least according to the best medical information there is now, the quicker you move, the shorter it lasts.”

Vassiliadis said rebounds to Singapore and Macao provide a glimpse of what things could be like for Las Vegas.

“Singapore apparently is coming back strong, and Macao’s picking up pretty nicely, even though they haven’t reopened the (Chinese) border completely,” he said. “I would think we would be at least as good as that. Pent-up demand is kind of like holding the lid down on a pot of boiling water. When you let the lid off, it just goes.”

Vassiliadis also is proud of the way Southern Nevada is positioning itself with guests. I drove the Strip late last week, and most of the marquees had messages impressing that health and safety is the top priority now but that when this ends, we’ll be eager to welcome everybody back.

“I think we’re doing some stuff here to keep the relationships with our visitors going and being very appropriate,” he said. “I think what the gaming companies did with the governor was really smart. I think it shows the visitors that we care about them more than just making money right now. We want everybody to be well, and once everybody gets well, we’ll be well-thought-of.”

So what’s the rebound going to look like? Vassiliadis advocates a party like no other city is capable of staging.

“When this is over and it’s safe, we need to have a big party. We need to have a welcome-back party or a welcome-home party. A we-got-through-this-together party,” he said.

“There’s no place to throw as big and wide a celebration as we can. And I think people are going to want to breathe. They’re going to want to release, and they will really want to celebrate the end of this thing.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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