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Calendar crush: Las Vegas braces for 5 months of major events

Updated October 18, 2023 - 1:06 pm

Las Vegas has an unprecedented lineup of major events occurring in the next five months, but the goal of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority remains the same — attract a new audience of first-time visitors and convince the city’s long-time fans to make a return visit.

The challenge that stands in the way of that is high demand, pricing and “Vegas fatigue” — the prospect of people going elsewhere for a different experience.

LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill said in a recent interview that there’s a variety of activities, from megaevents to major tradeshows to new resort openings on the calendar between now and mid-February.

Filling the gaps

“These events fill many of the gaps we once had on our calendar,” Hill said. “It once was the case that the (National Finals) rodeo was the only thing keeping the city going and everything was dark except for that time.”

The city’s tourism leaders have used the National Finals Rodeo as a template for bringing thousands of visitors to participate in related events, even if they don’t have tickets to the rodeo. Other major events are expected to have a similar format.

Two out-of-town tourism experts observing the parade of big events coming to Las Vegas say local leaders should be wary of some of the things that could happen, including a backlash against the pricing of events and the heavy traffic big events can cause.

“These questions, issues, and challenges are nothing new to the tourism industry,” said Mark Bonn, a tourism expert at Florida State University. “There is a delicate balance between the subjective well-being of local residents and those tax dollars generated by visitor spending. From the standpoint of residents, travel destination success should result in tangible evidence of the industry’s commitment to residents and their communities.

Committees associated with Formula One and the Super Bowl have provided monthly updates on those two major events. But they haven’t particularly made locals happy with concerns about traffic, preparations for the Formula One circuit, the removal of trees in front of Bellagio to provide better sightlines for race fans and the headache of how employees will get to work when the race occurs.

Crowds, traffic and crime

“Some local residents will not like the traffic, crowding and crime that the Super Bowl and F1 creates,” said Christine Vogt, former director of the Center for Sustainable Tourism at Arizona State University. “For those who work or own tourism businesses, they know the drill. When guests are coming or here in Las Vegas, the cash is flowing. A resident who has tickets for these events is probably feeling lucky and will endure the (downsides) of large-crowd tourism. The remainder of residents should avoid the airport, Strip, and other places tourists congregate on these weekends. A good time for them to take a vacation.”

Bonn said big events can sometimes spawn unanticipated problems.

However, cities experiencing overcapacity and crowding issues because of more visitors must also recognize that often, success could have serious consequences, he said. Local issues needing to be closely monitored include the environmental and transportation impacts, energy usage, trash and litter, water availability and quality, safety and crime and more.

Vogt said the improvements to the infrastructure can be beneficial to locals — but also generate more special events in future years.

“Improvements in infrastructure in the city take good communications and news in the media to educate the public about changes, disruptions, taxpayer funded investments, and inconveniences,” she said. “Las Vegas is a tourist town. These upcoming megaevents will not be the end. The new infrastructure will attract more events and more tourists, and more infrastructure and maintenance.”

Hill predicts Formula One racing will get better after the city experiences its first race because locals will know what to expect in the future and can prepare better in the years to come.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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