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Encore paring back hours citing dampened demand

Updated October 13, 2020 - 6:13 pm

Encore is scaling back amid dampened foot traffic.

Instead of continuing to operate seven days a week, the resort will close at noon Monday and begin operating Thursdays through Mondays “indefinitely until consumer demand for Las Vegas increases,” Wynn Las Vegas announced Tuesday. Encore’s hotel, casino restaurants and amenities will open each Thursday at 2 p.m., and any hotel guests at the resort must check out by noon on Mondays.

Encore’s reduction in hours also comes with a shift of its poker room to Wynn Las Vegas beginning Monday. It will operate seven days a week on the casino floor near Wynn’s self-parking garage. Everything else at Encore will operate Thursdays through Sundays, the company announced.

Encore’s decision to reduce hours signals that Las Vegas’ resorts are struggling without the business travel they usually see during the workweek, and it might be a sign of things to come for other Las Vegas hotel-casinos, hospitality industry experts say.

There were 3.3 million visitors, including 760,300 conventiongoers, to Las Vegas in February compared with 1.5 million and not a single conventiongoer in August, according to Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority data. Nearly 83 percent of Las Vegas hotel rooms were filled midweek during February; 34 percent of rooms were filled midweek during August.

Gaming Control Board data shows gaming win was down 39.19 percent on the Las Vegas Strip during August compared with the same time last year.

“There’s a threshold that properties are likely crossing at a point here where the income that they’re getting from weekend travel just isn’t enough to sustain normal operations,” said Greg Chase, CEO of Experience Strategy Associates hospitality consulting group.

Encore won’t be the first Strip resort to reopen since the pandemic shutdown and then reduce operations.

Palazzo’s hotel tower stopped taking weekday reservations on July 21 though its casino floor, shops and restaurants remain open during the week.

Planet Hollywood Resort reopened on Oct. 8 in a limited capacity, with casino floors open seven days a week but reservations limited from Thursdays to Sundays.

Hotel-casinos are “adapting their business to what we can get right now, and they’re being smart about it,” Chase said. Reducing hours is the first step resorts can take to offset the high costs of operating with the lower revenue they are generating, he said.

UNLV hospitality professor Amanda Belarmino said the weekday business in Las Vegas depends on convention and business travel.

“Throughout the country, we see a reluctance to return to business and convention travel without a vaccine,” she said. “This, coupled with international travel restrictions and increased parental involvement in remote learning, easily explain the difference in demand for weekdays and weekends.”

She added that the move shows Wynn is committed to fiscal responsibility while looking out for its employees, who can better plan their schedules and perhaps take another job “rather than constantly cutting hours.”

Resorts are now forced to rely on a weekend getaway customer base that is traveling less because of COVID-19 restrictions or apprehensions and staying fewer days when they do travel, said Nehme Abouzeid, president of LaunchVegas LLC consulting group and a former executive with Wynn and Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Gaming companies will do whatever it takes to ensure they are still viable by the time the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, including reducing hours, he said.

“There are only so many levers you can pull to keep the resorts full seven days a week,” Abouzeid said.

Abouzeid said deeply discounted offers are bringing in some customers who previously were unable to afford a stay at luxury properties.

“Vegas is still very much on sale,” he added.

However, resorts must not only attract customers to fill their rooms, he said, they must also attract customers who can afford to spend their money at the casino, restaurants, shops and other stores inside the hotel.

“(Otherwise) you just have a hotel full of people that are watching Netflix in their room and are just walking around the casino floor but they’re not playing,” Abouzeid said.

With visitation lower than many had hoped it would be at this stage of the pandemic, Chase said casinos risk “cannibalizing other properties or your own properties” by fighting one another for that small customer pool.

“It’s smarter to scale back than to close completely,” he said.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates Palazzo.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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