Las Vegas businesses in the tourism sector and beyond say they’re closely monitoring the spread of the coronavirus and have seen little to no impact so far.
Nick Wyatt, the head of research and analysis and travel and tourism at analytics company GlobalData, said the travel and tourism industry will not grind to a halt, but “we must be realistic and acknowledge the fact that it will need to navigate choppy waters for some time to come.”
This comes after federal health officials warned Americans on Tuesday that the COVID-19 virus’ spread in the U.S. is inevitable.
Tourism seeing no impacts
Wyatt said the warnings from the Centers for Disease Control means the virus can no longer be viewed as just a China or Asia issue.
“It is readily apparent that the impact is likely to be felt on a more global scale than was perhaps previously envisaged,” Wyatt said in a Wednesday statement. “Incessant media coverage of the issues is also impacting traveler confidence. These actions restrict people’s ability and willingness to travel and this is obviously creating significant headwinds for the industry.”
It’s too early to say if travel to Las Vegas has seen any impact from the virus.
The U.S. Travel Association is set to release its first round of data on the coronavirus’ impact Tuesday, according to association spokesman Chris Kennedy.
Southwest Airlines spokesman Brian Parrish said the company has not suspended any scheduled flights or routes during the coronavirus, but it will continue to monitor the coronavirus and “make any adjustments to our procedures or operations, as necessary.” Southwest, McCarran International Airport’s busiest commerical airline, does not fly to any of the international regions where the virus has been noted as problematic.
But fears seem to be ramping up among consumers and investors: United Airlines’ shares fell 6.5 percent Tuesday after it withdrew its financial forecasts for the year because of the impact on demand for air travel.
Nevada Resorts Association spokeswoman Dawn Christensen said the organization is closely monitoring the situation, and its members are in contact with public health officials regarding the latest information, protocols and guidance.
“We will implement any health directive they issue. As a precaution, we have installed hand sanitizers in public areas and back-of-house for team members,” he said in a statement.
Caesars Entertainment Corp. CEO Tony Rodio and Eldorado Resorts CEO Tom Reeg said during earnings calls this week that the companies have seen no impact from the virus.
Representatives of MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Red Rock Resorts declined to comment. Caesars Entertainment Corp. spokespeople referred to their Tuesday earnings call comments. Boyd Gaming Corp. did not respond to requests for comment.
Wyatt said he expects to see dampened occupancy rates and daily hotel rates as the virus spreads.
Monitoring the virus
So far, the virus seems to have little impact on the local convention sector.
The National Association of Broadcasters’ NAB Show is set to take place as planned starting April 18 in Las Vegas. A statement said the show has actually experienced an uptick in exhibit sales, attendee registration and hotel bookings in recent weeks.
Organizers said the trade show will follow CDC recommendations and protocols for heightened levels of cleanliness at event facilities.
A Wednesday statement from CinemaCon 2020, another trade show set to kickoff March 30, said the number of concerned emails and phone calls are “minimal.”
Weekly registration numbers are similar to where they were at this time last year, according to the statement, even though some Chinese exhibitors will not be able to attend due to the travel ban in China. Even so, the trade show is already 99 percent sold out.
“We know of no convention in Las Vegas that has plans to cancel their event,” the CinemaCon statement reads.
The CONEXPO-CON/AGG and the co-located IFPR shows are also set to run as-planned beginning March 10. The trade show will make sure hand sanitizers will be available across the convention space, according to a Tuesday press release.
CONEXPO-CON/AGG show director Dana Wuesthoff said Chinese registrants have been cancelling, but they make up less than 1 percent of total registrations to date.
Lori Nelson-Kraft, a spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said the organization and its resort partners are continuing to monitor the virus and coordinate with health officials.
Small businesses thinking ahead
Randi Thompson, the Nevada State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said that with so few U.S. infections to date, the virus is not yet on the association’s radar. The only changes she’s been made aware of are more conferencing and curtailed travel among local small businesses.
Meanwhile, a Walmart spokesperson said the company will continue to monitor the development of the coronavirus, and is working collaboratively with suppliers “to understand and mitigate any supply chain disruptions.”
A spokeswoman for CVS Health said the company is trying to keep its store shelves stocked.
“We’re working with our suppliers to meet customer demand for face masks,” said Stephanie Cunha, manager of public relations for the company. “This demand may cause shortages at some store locations and we’ll re-supply those stores as quickly as possible. We’re also keeping an eye on inventory across other categories including hand sanitizer, and will work with our supply partners to address any issues if they arise.”
Cara Clarke, spokeswoman for the Vegas Chamber, said the organization hopes to communicate best practices and preventive measures to its 4,000 Nevada members within the next week.
“The whole idea is to think ahead and to spend the time doing that now rather than waiting for when you are potentially impacted,” Clarke said.
Business managers should consider reviewing their leave policies for employees, she said.
“Maybe it’s an absolute don’t come to work if you have such and such symptoms,” Clarke said. “If you’re a business that may be higher risk, like a restaurant or something where there are lots of members of the general public, you may even want higher standards.”
Businesses can start to identify which employees can work from home and the equipment they would need to do so effectively.
“If you are a small business, how are you going to manage the operation of your business? Now might be a good time to think through cross training certain employees so that you can potentially fill gaps if you need to within your workforce,” Clarke said.
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.