When Sean Christie moved to Las Vegas 20 years ago, summer was considered the slow season.
That changed in the mid-2000s, when pool parties started taking off across the Strip. Today, Christie, vice president of nightlife at MGM Resorts International, said the company tries to find a pool accommodation for every demographic, whether it’s a college student looking to hit a day club or a family wanting to relax in a lazy river.
“Every year, we pour millions of dollars into … making it better,” Christie said. “It’s at the top of minds in terms of our company.”
All across the valley, resorts are continuing to invest in their pools, hoping to attract demographics of all types as guests’ interests start to shift.
Focusing on pools
Examples of pool investments can be seen across town. The downtown Plaza hotel renovated its pool deck in 2016, The Venetian’s pool deck is undergoing renovations and MGM’s NoMad pool opened last month.
“We’ve been focusing on increasing our revenue at the pool deck year over year,” said Courtney Bailey, assistant director of food and beverage at the Plaza.
Local analyst Jeremy Aguero said it’s difficult to evaluate the importance of pools to the local tourism industry, as their sales are not reported separately. But he said the number of pool and day club renovations are a sign that they’ve been a positive investment.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that they’re a revenue-driving (amenity),” he said. “Those amenities are important for the 42 million people that decide to come to Vegas every year.”
‘A major revenue driver’
The beginning of pool season can be a big draw, especially for visitors who live in cooler climates, Christie said.
“They’ve been cooped up in winter coats the past six months,” he said. “When we open in April, they want to be out there.”
Data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority show pools have drawn more visitors in recent years. A survey found 11 percent of visitors in 2016 had been to a pool party or day club, and 4 percent of visitors in 2018 had done so as well.
Mehmet Erdem, an associate professor of hospitality at UNLV, said that while the season does drive revenue, Las Vegas isn’t as dependent on weather as other destinations are.
“It is unlike the snow season at Aspen, where resorts heavily depend on seasonality,” he said via email. “The LV resort market enjoys the benefit of having multiple ‘seasons’ due to city-wide conventions, sports tournaments, (and) global cultural celebrations such as the Chinese New Year.”
But pools attract more than just tourists and convention-goers.
The M Resort — which tends to cater to locals — invested $300,000 to upgrade its cabanas last year.
“The pool is a major revenue driver,” said Justin Teixeira, the director of daylife and entertainment at the M Resort. “There’s food and beverage revenue that can be captured; there’s some VIP amenity upgrades available that are an additional revenue stream.”
Data from the LVCVA show that visitors spend a big chunk of their vacation money on things like piña coladas and poolside nachos. In 2018, the average trip expenditures on food and drinks was $315, a 13 percent increase from five years prior.
And unlike other attractions, pools can be a draw for people of all age groups and demographics, and they don’t come with a time limit like a dinner reservation or spa appointment.
“You’re only limited to how much sunlight there is in the day,” Christie said.
Brooke Zorne has been working as a pool server at the M Resort for two seasons, long enough to know how to handle its peak hours.
When 11:30 a.m. hits on weekends, Zorne stays busy hustling throughout the pool area, serving drinks to guests for $10.59 an hour, plus tips. She said she can earn anywhere from $250 to $400 on a busy weekend, or around $20,000 during the season.
“I love it,” said Zorne, a part-time student at both the College of Southern Nevada and UNLV. “I’m happy I decided to go back.”
Along with upgrading pool amenities, Teixeira said, the M has increased its pool staff size in recent years to keep up with growth.
In June — peak pool season — the valley adds about 4,000 more jobs, according to David Schmidt, chief economist at the Department of Education, Training and Rehabilitation.
While some of it is due to the busy travel season and conventions, Schmidt said, pool season and day clubs account for many of those jobs.
A spokesperson for MGM Resorts International said it hires more than 1,100 employees for its pool season. The Venetian hires 175 seasonal pool employees, the same number as the M, and the Plaza hires 25.
Spokespeople for Caesars Entertainment Corp., Boyd Gaming Corp., Wynn Las Vegas, Tropicana and Station Casinos declined to comment for this story.
“It’s a significant source of jobs,” Schmidt said. “Broadly, it’s better for the people working and it’s good for people in the area when they spend the money in the community. It spreads out.”
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.