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Now’s the time to book cheap Las Vegas travel, experts say

Updated May 14, 2020 - 9:12 am

Gov. Steve Sisolak has yet to lift all shutdown orders in Nevada, but airlines and Las Vegas resorts already are working to persuade travelers to book their next vacations.

Allegiant Airlines sent an email last week offering up to 25 percent off routes. In late April, MGM Resorts International offered rewards members a chance to save up to 20 percent on their next booking.

These are just some examples of the travel deals experts predict will continue to emerge in the coming weeks.

“Post-COVID travel, I think, will be pretty inexpensive because of this desire to incentivize travelers to hit the road,” travel expert Gabe Saglie said. “We’ll see some great rates at hotels; we’ll see airfare sales.”

While it remains unclear when a number of Las Vegas resort properties will open their doors, Saglie and others believe now is the time to book far-off Las Vegas trips.

‘This is the time to book’

Saglie said he started to see deals emerge from Las Vegas in late April, around the time casino operators began to share more details on their reopening plans.

It’s still unclear when Nevada casinos will be allowed to reopen, but many operators have said they hope to welcome guests in late May or early June.

“(Starting in May), you’re seeing an amazing amount of hotel prices well under $100 or $50 a night,” Saglie said. “The industry is just now starting to put ad dollars behind promoting this stuff. … I think you’ll see a more concentrated push (in the weeks to come), and those deals will become much more visible.”

Prices and tentative starting dates vary across companies and Strip properties, but some appear to be offering discounted rates already. Treasure Island’s website, for example, shows rooms on May 22 start at $118, discounted from $169.

Other hoteliers — including Marriott International, which owns or leases three properties in Las Vegas — have started offering travel deals.

A Monday statement said the Maryland-based company is offering 20 percent off Marriott Bonvoy Gift Cards, “good for future travel globally this summer and beyond.” Additionally, the company’s premium home rental — Homes and Villas by Marriott International — will offer 10 percent off stays May 18 and 19, and rewards members will be able to gift or purchase points toward free nights with a 60 percent bonus between May 18 and June 30.

Travel cheap now

Saglie added that travel expenses — whether it’s a plane ticket or gas — are cheap right now, which also could push travelers to Las Vegas.

According to Google Flights, a one-way plane ticket to McCarran International Airport from JFK International Airport in New York starts at $119 on Friday, Aug. 28. Online flight fee tracker Faredetective.com shows the average price for this flight in August 2019 was $533.

Google also shows inexpensive flights from Chicago, another top air feeder market to Las Vegas, on the same day. A one-way flight from Chicago O’Hare International Airport starts at $48; Faredetective.com shows the average price for this flight in August 2019 was $125.

Saglie suggested travelers book now for trips months out, in the late summer and beyond. He added that these companies’ return policies and flexibility at this time will probably be “unprecedented” so consumers feel safe booking while state shutdown guidelines are evolving.

Tammy Levent, founder of travel agency Elite Travel, advised travelers to book now for trips in the fall and winter, especially weeks around the holidays.

“You know how the winter season gets high in price,” she said. “This is the time to book. This is the time to get the cheapest deal.”

Gradual return

Saglie expects travelers’ return to Las Vegas will come in stages, with drive-ins from neighboring states leading the way. Fly-in travelers will follow once they start to feel safe on airplanes again.

“States will react (to businesses reopening in Nevada) differently,” he said. “More travel will happen in late summer into fall. Fall could become the new summer for a lot of folks. … I would imagine that’s when we start to see more robust travel numbers to Las Vegas.”

Levent suggested travelers act fast, though. Once the shutdown ends, she thinks pent-up demand will push away many of these deals.

“The minute they see people moving, they’ll start moving their prices,” she said.

Representatives from MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Station Casinos did not respond to requests for comment.

Boyd Gaming Corp. spokesman David Strow referenced previous comments from President and CEO Keith Smith, who said he doesn’t plan to ramp up promotional marketing during the reopenings.

“We, as a company, don’t plan on going out there and instituting a marketing war simply to get people in the building,” he said during an earnings call April 28.

Caesars spokesman Richard Broome did not offer any examples of promotions or deals, but he suggested looking at hotel rates online.

According to Caesars’ website, a room at Caesars Palace the first night guests are allowed to book — May 22 — is listed at a “promo” price of $169, discounted from $225.

“We will be emphasizing that we will be working hard to create a comfortable environment, based on health and safety protocols, for guests and employees,” he said. “We will tell our customers that we’ll be excited to see them again when they’re ready to visit.”

Las Vegas Sands Corp. spokeswoman Alyssa Anderson declined to comment on the company’s plans for promotional marketing, but an offer on the company’s website shows up to 20 percent off at The Venetian and Palazzo through Dec. 31, 2021.

Taking advantage of deals

Some travelers already are jumping on these travel deals.

Steven Ploesch said he visits with a friend once every year. They’ve reserved a room at Bellagio in late August.

“My friend was sent an offer from MGM for up to four nights (complimentary), and I was sent an offer from them for up to two nights (complimentary),” he said via email.

Ploesch found that flying is also cheaper during the pandemic; he said he would usually pay $350 to $450 for a round-trip ticket from Pittsburgh, but he’s paying $258 this year.

Another frequent Las Vegas traveler, Joe Friedrich from Idaho Falls, Idaho, said he’ll be coming back to Las Vegas as soon as it reopens.

His status with various rewards programs would allow him to spend up to 10 days in Las Vegas without having to pay any sort of room rate or resort fee, and he said round-trip flights are “cheap,” around $150 instead of the typical $200 or $250.

Even with limited dining and entertainment options, Friedrich said the deals will make the trip well worth it, and he expects casinos to offer more comps to get players in the doors.

“I’m sick of being stuck at home,” he said. “I can’t think of any other travel destination that would offer me what Vegas will be able to, even if there will be things I miss, like special shows.”

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

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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