Florida tragedies show how events could affect tourism-dependent Las Vegas

It’s hard to fathom a scenario worse than what unfolded in Orlando, Florida, from June 10 to 14.

A performer was shot at point-blank range. A gunman whose motives are still unclear shot and killed 49 people in a nightclub. A child was dragged away and drowned by an alligator.

The unimaginably horrific nightmare of an alligator attack in the “happiest place on Earth” grabbed headlines in a city reeling from those first two events.

Except for the detail of the alligator, any of those tragedies could have occurred in our own hometown, where tourism drives the economy.

When videographer Rachel Aston and I were assigned to spend time in Orlando after the Pulse nightclub shootings, our working premise was that the worst mass shooting in American history could have a broad impact on Orlando’s tourism economy.

Because Orlando operates in a somewhat parallel universe to Las Vegas, it seemed some lessons could be learned here by watching how Orlando responded to its own tragedy.

When we arrived, locals were just beginning to rebound from the shock. Not long after our plane touched down at Orlando International Airport, we were off to a multidenominational memorial service at which Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer offered comforting words.

The tears flowed like the rain outside the First Baptist Church of Orlando during one of central Florida’s typically powerful thunderstorms.

As I was typing the last keystroke in my report from the memorial, word had come down about the fate of 2-year-old Lane Graves. It was clear that the tragedy, completely unrelated to the other two, was a part of the tourism story. We covered the aftermath of the alligator attack with that in mind.

Throughout the Orlando stay, we searched for indications that the city’s worst week would have negative economic repercussions.

Interviews with Billy Vassiliadis, R&R Partners’ CEO and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s advertising consultant, and Sean Snaith, an economics professor at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, revealed some somewhat surprising conclusions: that the triple tragedies in all likelihood would not damage to Orlando tourism long-term.

Their reasoning was solid. All three incidents were random acts not likely to be repeated. As devastating as they were to fans of singer Christina Grimmie, the families of the people gunned down at Pulse and to the Graves family, those incidents weren’t likely to cause people to cancel travel plans.

Vassiliadis noted that Las Vegas has seen tragedy, noting the October 2013 shooting and killing of a patron at a nightclub at Bally’s and the December 2015 incident in which a motorist struck and killed a woman while hitting several others with her car on the Strip. Those incidents didn’t deter people from coming to Las Vegas.

Snaith also pointed out that the Pulse nightclub is near downtown Orlando, far from where most visitors to the city go, and the alligator incident was a freak incident unlikely to deter other visitors.

So what can be learned from these tragedies, here and in Orlando, as they relate to tourism? Here are my takeaways.

Strong, empathetic leadership is key to delivering the community from the shock of these events. Dyer delivered the right balance of compassion and conviction in his public statements regarding the mass shootings. Sheriff Jerry Demings was remarkably poised in his updates about the shootings and the alligator attack. Orlando is fortunate to have such steady leadership to unite the community.

The leadership within the tourism community was less forthcoming. As the business community was looking for answers, Visit Orlando, the organization that markets the area much as the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority markets Southern Nevada, wouldn’t grant interviews or talk about what was on people’s minds.

It’s easy to understand why. Snaith said no one wants to irritate The Mouse, because those comments come back to bite them. It was much easier for Visit Orlando to say “no comment” than to answer a few tough questions. In fairness to Orlando, it happens here, too.

Some of that anti-Disney sentiment rose to the surface during the briefings on the missing boy. The media pounded Demings with questions about whether the signs around resort waterways are thorough enough. Signs tell people not to swim, but don’t say anything about the presence of alligators. Disney finally announced after that criticism was raised that it would review signs at all of its resorts.

That got me thinking: Are there hazards in Southern Nevada that we take for granted but should warn tourists about? Local officials are pretty good about warning people not to leave children and pets in their cars when it’s hot, but should we be doing more to warn visitors about that? Should there be messaging to visitors to stay hydrated? Are there neighborhoods we should encourage visitors to avoid?

Although the experts say the recent tragedies’ effect on tourism in Orlando will be short-lived, I won’t be completely convinced until we start seeing the numbers. Although we may not see visitation tumble for Disney, Universal and the other theme parks dominating Orlando’s landscape, it’s clear that other people are already hurting economically.

Chain restaurant workers are saying they’ve seen a slowdown since the nightclub shootings. Maybe that’s because people were just a little reluctant to go out.

The businesses immediately around the nightclub are being devastated. Entire blocks of downtown Orlando are barricaded and some of those places won’t see clients until all the police work is done.

Pulse itself was devastated and some of Orlando’s gay entertainers staged a benefit show for the Pulse workers who are out of a job. At the benefit, Pulse management said the club would definitely reopen, but that would be a tall order.

The Florida incidents have us talking again about gun control and the Second Amendment, a debate, I’m sure, won’t go anywhere again, for better or worse.

We should all continue to talk about what happened in Orlando.

Our economy may depend on it.

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

UNLV Tech Park innovation building breaks ground
Construction on the first innovation building at the UNLV Tech Park is underway. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars Forum Meeting Center
Caesars broke ground Monday on its $375 million Caesars Forum Meeting Center (convention center) just east of the High Roller observation wheel. (Caesars Entertainment)
Technology reshapes the pawn shop industry
Devin Battersby attaches a black-colored device to the back of her iPhone and snaps several of the inside and outside of a Louis Vuitton wallet. The device, installed with artificial intelligence capabilities, analyzes the images using a patented microscopic technology. Within a few minutes, Battersby receives an answer on her app. The designer item is authentic.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Nevada for one year
Exhale Nevada CEO Pete Findley talks about the one year anniversary of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Young adults aren't saving for retirement
Financial advisors talk about saving trends among young adults. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump’s tariffs could raise costs for real estate developers, analysts say
President Donald Trump made his fortune in real estate, but by slapping tariffs on imports from close allies, developers in Las Vegas and other cities could get hit hard.
Las Vegas business and tariffs
Barry Yost, co-owner of Precision Tube Laser, LLC, places a metal pipe into the TruLaser Tube 5000 laser cutting machine on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Nevada Film Office Connects Businesses To Producers
The director of the Nevada Film Office discusses its revamped locations database and how it will affect local businesses. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Opendoor isn't the typical house flipping company
Unlike most house flippers, the company aims to make money from transaction costs rather than from selling homes for more than their purchase price.
The Venetian gondoliers sing Italian songs
Gondolier Marciano sings a the classic Italian song "Volare" as he leads guests through the canals of The Venetian in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Building In Logandale
Texas homebuilder D.R. Horton bought 43 lots in rural Logandale. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter announces plans to retire
Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the LVCVA, on Tuesday confirmed a Las Vegas Review-Journal report that he is preparing to retire. Richard N. Velotta/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Cousins Maine Lobster to open inside 2 Las Vegas Smith’s stores
Cousins Maine Lobster food truck company will open inside Las Vegas’ two newest Smith’s at Skye Canyon Park Drive and U.S. Highway 95, and at Warm Springs Road and Durango Drive. Cousins currently sells outside some Las Vegas Smith’s stores and at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices to continue to rise, expert says
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, gives homebuyers a pulse on the Las Vegas housing market. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NV Energy announces clean energy investment
The company is planning to add six solar projects in Nevada, along with the state's first major battery energy storage capacity. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
3 Mario Batali restaurants on Las Vegas Strip to close
Days after new sexual misconduct allegations were made against celebrity chef Mario Batali, his company announced Friday that it will close its three Las Vegas restaurants July 27. Employees of Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, all located in The Venetian and Palazzo resorts, were informed of the decision Friday morning. Bastianich is scheduled to visit the restaurants Friday to speak to employees about the next two months of operation as well as how the company plans to help them transition to new positions.
Nevada has its first cybersecurity apprenticeship program
The Learning Center education company in Las Vegas has launched the first apprenticeship program for cybersecurity in Nevada. It was approved by the State Apprenticeship Council on May 15. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas union members voting to authorize the right to strike
Thousands of Las Vegas union members voting Tuesday morning to authorize the right to strike. A “yes” vote would give the union negotiating committee the power to call a strike anytime after June 1 at the resorts that fail to reach an agreement. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada secretary of state website offers little protection against fraudulent business filings
Property developer Andy Pham tells how control of his business was easily seized by another person using the secretary of state website.
Caesars may be going solo in its marijuana policy
Several Southern Nevada casino companies aren’t following Caesars Entertainment’s lead on marijuana testing.
How much is the Lucky Dragon worth?
Less than a year-and-a-half after it opened, the Lucky Dragon was in bankruptcy.
Gyms and discount stores take over empty retail spaces
Grocery stores used to draw people to shopping centers. But many large retail spaces have been vacant since 2008. Discount stores like goodwill and gyms like EOS Fitness are filling those empty spaces, and helping to draw shoppers back in. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Funding source of Las Vegas stadium for the Raiders is sound, expert says
The stadium is funded in part by $750 million of room taxes, the biggest such tax subsidy ever for a professional sports stadium. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV, says that is a good use of public funds. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas needs light rail, expert says
Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute said he is afraid of a "congestion mobility crisis." Las Vegas needs a light rail system, he said, to accommodate the city's growing number of attractions. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three takeaways from Wynn Resorts' Earnings Call
Matt Maddox came out swinging in his first earnings conference call as Wynn Resorts chief executive officer, boasting of record Las Vegas quarterly revenues and applicants lining up for work.
Star Wars VR Comes to Las Vegas
Sneak peak at the new "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire" VR experience at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
Elaine Wynn continues her fight to change Wynn Resorts board
Elaine Wynn, the largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts Ltd., is seeking to kick a friend of her ex-husband Steve Wynn off the company’s board of directors. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like