Tag Archives: tourism

Las Vegas Tapped for World Travel and Tourism Summit

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has selected Las Vegas as the host city for its 2011 Global Travel & Tourism Summit, following an endorsement from local tourism organizations. Earlier the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) had voted to invest $1.5 million in the event, which is scheduled for May, 2011.

With heads of industry and government from around the world expected, the Aria Resort & Casino has been selected to host the prestigious event.

WTTC chief executive Jean-Claude Baumgarten told the Associated Press recently the group had selected Las Vegas in part because the city is symbolic of tourism in the United States.

“We cannot choose a better place than Las Vegas,” Mr Baumgarten explained. “The whole economy, all of what we are seeing, all the impacts of travel and tourism on the economy, on jobs, on the future and investment make Las Vegas a better choice.”

Approximately 244,000 people are employed in the leisure and hospitality industry in Las Vegas – more than 30 per cent of Las Vegas’ total work force – according to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

The so-called Sin City is famous for gambling as much as tourism.

This year’s WTTC summit is scheduled to begin in Beijing, China on May 25th.

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Passage of Travel Promotion Act aims to spur growth into Las Vegas from international visitors

Las Vegas tourism officials believe the federal Travel Promotion Act legislation that was signed into law last week will lead to a marked growth in international visitors, one of the gaming industry’s few positive market segments in the challenging economic climate. 

Under the legislation, signed into law by President Barack Obama, a program will be created that will allow the United States to advertise the country as a destination for international travelers. It creates a public-private partnership for travel promotion that is partly funded by a $10 fee paid by international travelers. 

The idea for the Travel Promotion Act originated from the 1995 White House Conference on Tourism. It was revived after the economic downturn saw the United States lose some 68 million international visitors, which accounted for losses of $509 million in consumer spending, $32 million in tax revenue and 441,000 jobs, according to a study done by Oxford Economics. 

The same study found the act could potentially draw 1.6 million new international visitors to the United States, which would generate $4 billion in new spending.

Las Vegas tourism officials hope to capture some of those visitors and market separately to potential international visitors as well. 

The convention authority estimated the act would increase international visitation to 20 percent of Las Vegas’ total market share. In addition, while Oxford believes the act will be responsible for creating 40,000 tourism jobs nationally, the convention authority estimated an increase in international visitation could create another 12,000 jobs in Southern Nevada.

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Welcome to Sin City, Mr. President!

With an unprecedented 30-mile radius air traffic prohibition in place (usually it’s half that) during his trip to Las Vegas, costing commercial air tour travel operators thousands of dollars of lost revenue, President Barack Obama remains undaunted, planning to land his Air Force One gas guzzling hog later tonight, marking his second presidential visit to Sin City– you know, the little hideaway berg that encourages corporations to blow their government bailout funds or simply have students waste their college savings on gambling forays. 

Despite having such a notorious moniker, Las Vegas tourism officials have weathered the multiple gaffes and predict a million more visitors in 2010.  Thank you, Mr. President. 

He’ll probably need to bring a strong suit of armor and sharp swords when he speaks Friday for select invitees at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, where his prior barbs were specifically aimed.

His olive branch offering, if you will, will be his quest to seek congressional approval of the Travel Promotions Act- an overseas $4 billion promotion program that could bring more moneyed foreign tourists to Las Vegas.   Morevover, the bill promises it could bring 40,000 new American jobs and $320 million in new federal tax revenue, according to the U.S. Travel Association. 

If that doesn’t stick when the Prez throws it against the wall, his backup plan (or an add-on, depending on crowd rancor) could be to announce the Department of Transportation’s $30 million project for a new Sahara Avenue – one of the most traveled byways in Las Vegas – bus project as part of the multibillion stimulus package. 

But outspoken ex-mob lawyer turned Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will not being rolling the red carpet out.   Goodman remains upset at President Obama. Goodman said he needs to be true to his conscience and, therefore, won’t accept invitations to greet the president of attend any town hall meeting unless he personally gets “some kind of retraction.”  

If you like to be part of this surely politically entertaining event, you can line up for tickets now at Green Valley High School in Henderson for Friday’s 10 a.m. town hall meeting. 

Mr. President, please be sure to enjoy yourself when you’re in the home of sin.  It’s a devilishly fun town.

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China Comes to U.S. Rescue of Maglev Train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas

Long discussed and hotly debated for years, it appears if the magnetic levitation train (called ‘Maglev’) ferrying passengers (and tourists!) from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is really to get started in earnest, it will take Chinese funding- lots of it. 

China announced last week that it is willing to loan $7  billion to build the project. 

All that is needed for the loan to go though is a promise of support from the U.S. government. 

Maglev officials said the Export-Import Bank of China is willing to lend the money with the knowledge that if the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission is unable to pay the funds back, federal officials will. 

What’s a little petty cash transaction between friends?

{Also, a prior article is available on the high speed Maglev train issue by Las Vegas Backstage Access.}

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Go to Las Vegas- and Go Broke?

A careless remark by President Barack Obama about Las Vegas has triggered a furious backlash from Nevada’s cash-strapped gambling mecca and a key Democratic ally fighting a tough re-election battle in the state. 

Speaking about the economy yesterday at an event in Nashua, New Hampshire, Mr. Obama told Americans: “When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices.” 

The economy of Las Vegas, the world’s most famous gambling and entertainment destination, is heavily dependent on tourism and Las Vegans were already incensed by a crack from Mr. Obama a year ago that companies should not use federal bail out money for trips to the city.   The city is still reeling from that comment, trying to keep bookings and revenues up on conventions and other events. 

Mr. Obama’s latest remark about Las Vegas prompted a swift and angry retort from Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, who is fighting an extremely uphill battle to win re-election in Nevada, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. – a whopping 13 per cent.

Mr. Obama hurriedly dispatched a letter to Mr. Reid. “I hope you know that during my Town Hall today, I wasn’t saying anything negative about Las Vegas,” he wrote. 

Oscar Goodman, the Mayor of Las Vegas and an independent, also got into the fray, raising his voice and describing President Obama as “a real slow learner” who has a “psychological hang-up” about Las Vegas. 

Mr. Goodman added that this time an apology from Mr. Obama wouldn’t be enough. “I’ll do everything I can to give him the boot.” 

Last year, Mr. Obama apologized for his prior gaffe and during a visit to Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas said that it was good to get out of Washington and “there’s nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week.” 

Repercussions surrounding the current incident are not nearly over.  In a couple of weeks, Mr. Obama is planning another visit to Las Vegas, which surely will cause sparks to fly anew.

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December Brings Most Monthly Revenue Ever for Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority says this is the busiest December Las Vegas has ever experienced. They expect to see $250 million in non-gaming revenue this month that will bring in over 300,000 tourists. 

The National Finals Rodeo kicked off Thursday night in Las Vegas.  For years, it was the only major event in Las Vegas for the month of December, but that has changed. 174,000 people are predicted to attend the NFR.  The event is expected to bring in $50 million alone in non-gaming revenue. 

Not only is NFR in Las Vegas this week, so is the first ever Rock ‘n Roll Marathon on Sunday which brings World Class  and recreational runners from all around the world, racing down the entire length of the Las Vegas Strip for the first time accompanied by bands all along the route.

Throughout the week there were grand openings of CityCenter properties, which will culminate on Dec. 16 with the opening of the flagship property, Aria Resort.

NASCAR Awards Week with events all this week for an event that was previously in New York for three decades.   Three thousand NASCAR officials alone were in Las Vegas, bringing in an estimated $6 million of revenue.

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Las Vegas’ Rough Road Continues

That potent one-two Las Vegas punch has lost its zing. 

All year long it’s been a hard fought battle, with the bad economy and slashed discretionary spending yielding the crushing blows. 

Adding to the demise, with more than 150,000 hotel rooms and heavily dependent on convention business, the tough times are getting unbearable. 

Fewer people are visiting, let alone spending.  Many casino floors are half-empty during the day. 

Taxi drivers up and down the Strip complain that they wait a long time between pickups. The fares they do get negotiate nearly every rate and no longer tip even minimally. 

Even fewer flights are landing in Las Vegas – US Airways Group Inc. announced last month that it was cutting arrivals in half.  Las Vegas hotels are heavily discounting and are doing anything it takes to lure folks back. 

At the Imperial Palace, rooms are going for $25, $65 on Saturdays. At the Palms Casino Resort, a standard room costs $59, $99 for a studio suite. 

High-end casinos such as Mandalay Bay are offering rooms for about $109.99, with a special two-night-minimum promotion that includes a 50 percent discount on a suite upgrade, a two-for-one House of Blues restaurant voucher, $25 resort credits on food, beverage, or merchandise, and 30 percent off tickets for The Lion King

Las Vegas’ woes are also not a good omen for other casino towns – or tourist destinations in general.  The falloff effect is pronounced and enduring. 

“What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. What happens in Vegas spreads out to all the rest of us,” said Meryl Levitz, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. 

“When Las Vegas greatly lowers its rates, consumers don’t think of it as Vegas being Vegas. They think along the lines, ‘Well then, I should be able to get a good deal anywhere.’ ” 

In September, for the first time since May 2008, the number of visitors to Las Vegas went up year over year – 4.3 percent. But the average daily room rate was down nearly 25 percent, to just over $92 a night. Gambling revenue was down 3.6 percent, the 21st straight monthly decline, according to figures released last week by the city’s convention authority.

All the big casino companies are feeling the pinch. Las Vegas Sands Corp., which owns the Venetian and the Palazzo on the Strip, reported a $123 million net loss for the third quarter that ended Sept 30. MGM Mirage, which owns 10 casinos, the most on the Strip, posted a $750.4 million net loss. And Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which owns eight casinos here, had more than a $1 billion net loss. 

Conventions and meetings, which characteristically drive midweek Las Vegas room occupancy, are way off this year. Attendance is down 27.1 percent compared with the same period in 2008; the number of gatherings is down 18.2 percent. 

About 400 meetings were canceled from late 2008 to May, resulting in $166 million lost in nongaming revenue, so says the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. 

One reason: restrictions on using federal-bailout funds for certain types of corporate travel, said Rossi Ralenkotter, the authority’s president and CEO. The other: Las Vegas’ reputation as a lavish meeting destination. 

The town’s party-hearty image had to be tweaked, said Billy Vassiliadis, chief executive of R&R Partners Inc., the Las Vegas public relations firm that created the “What happens here, stays here” slogan. Its current campaign features high-level executives hard at work in Vegas. 

“We began delivering a much more sober business message and didn’t talk much about the play side,” Vassiliadis said yesterday. “We were dealing with the perception of whether it would be frivolous to hold a meeting in Vegas. Clearly, after the first quarter of the year, executives needed validation and support to come here for a meeting.” 

During a panel discussion last week at the annual Global Gaming Expo, also known as G2E, Ralenkotter said: “Las Vegas [has] worked hard to ensure that the value of face-to-face meetings was better understood. We have also worked hard to attract new business to Las Vegas and have signed 24 new contracts with [trade] shows that have either never been . . . or have not been here in more than five years.” 

G2E seemed to mirror its host town: more subdued, less boisterous. The event drew an estimated 25,000 gambling executives, regulators, slot manufacturers, and suppliers to discuss industry trends and showcase the latest products – down from 26,500 last year. Registered exhibitors numbered 566, down from 724, and the amount of exhibit space used at the cavernous Las Vegas Convention Center was 258,600 square feet, down from 335,480 in 2008. 

With the supply of convention visitors dwindling, luring back the leisure traveler became a priority, Jacob Oberman, a casino consultant with Los Angeles-based commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., said at a recent panel discussion on filling hotel rooms in a down economy. 

“They’re doing this by either giving gaming customers more favorable complimentaries than in the past, increasing their allotment of rooms, and presence with Internet wholesalers such as Expedia, [or] offering creative discount room offers and packages to the general public. 

It appears everyone in Las Vegas, or planning to go there, are cinching their belts a few notches.  It’s not that parites are not happening– it’s just they’re not as lavish or widely participated in as in the past.

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CityCenter Too Big for Mr. Big– Las Vegas?

Turns out Sin City is far from recession-proof. Citigroup Global Markets analyst Anil Daswani has doubts that MGM Mirage’s latest offering on the Las Vegas Strip, the gargantuan $8.5 billion CityCenter, planned for official opening and much fanfare on Dec. 16, will have tourists racing to plunk down what little cash they have left. 

“With CityCenter to open within a month … we do not believe that CityCenter will successfully drive visitation without incentives,” Daswani said in a note. “In our view, 5,000+ new rooms will be hard to absorb.” 

CityCenter is the largest privately financed development in the U.S. 

However, noting visits to Las Vegas are trending down 7% in 2009 while unemployment levels have now hit double digits, having some of the highest unemployment figures in the U.S., Mr. Daswani is concerned the new building will cannibalize demand from MGM’s existing properties while adding pressure to room rates.

Citi has a “sell” rating for MGM Mirage.

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CityCenter Gets Ready to Blossom in Las Vegas – Opening Schedule

In just three short months, the world will be introduced to CityCenter in Las Vegas. An extraordinary urban resort destination brought to life by eight world-renowned architects, CityCenter will debut a new era of resort experiences with an ambition to refine and redefine Las Vegas. 

Conceived to bring a true center to The Strip, CityCenter will be much more than a collection of resorts and residences; it will rather be a true community – a welcoming environment for people to gather, relax and enjoy. Great pedestrian corridors, dynamic public spaces, authentic richness and diversity of experiences will voke the energy of the world’s most exciting places. 

CityCenter’s public Fine Art Collection will enliven the street and engage passersby. As if in a trolling gallery, guests will happen upon works by world-renowned artists such as Maya Lin or Nancy Rubins as they wander through CityCenter’s walkways, hotels and residences. 

Upon opening, CityCenter will be one of the largest sustainable developments in existence, bringing a new level of environmental consciousness to the world-famous Strip. The U.S. Green Building Council already has awarded Gold LEED(R) certification to ARIA’s hotel tower, convention center and theater; as well as Vdara Hotel. CityCenter’s remaining venues are poised to receive a combination of Silver and Gold LEED(R) ratings.

(Prior to this, Las Vegas Backstage Access has written many articles on specific venues.  Please use the search feature to find under, “CityCenter.”) 

CITYCENTER’S GRAND OPENING SCHEDULE: 

    —  Vdara Hotel – December 1, 2009

    —  Crystals retail and entertainment district – December 3, 2009

    —  Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas – December 4, 2009

    —  ARIA Resort & Casino – December 16, 2009

    —  The Harmon – Late 2010 

Residential occupancies slated to begin mid-January 2010.

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Burning Man LIVE!

For those of you that are not one of the fortunate 48,000 or so radical and self-reliant Burning Man participants- called ”Burners” -now hanging out and trying to survive the sweltering heat in Black Rock City in Nevada with few worldly possessions, at least you can relax in the comfort of your home and see a techno live streaming view of the self-expressive, artistic event that runs through September 7 at:  http://www.ustream. tv/channel/ burningman- live    Not only can you view the event live, but you can socially chat online at the same time.   My how technology is all pervasive, not matter where you go in life.

Last time Las Vegas Backstage Access took a peek, we saw bicyclers galore peddling on the dusty playa– and then an ambulance raced across the screen in the foreground.  What fun!

[On March 25, we wrote an article on Burning Man.]

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Mandarin Oriental Annouces Pierre Gagnaire’s Twist Restaurant in Las Vegas’ CityCenter

Mandarin Oriental, prominently situated at the entrance of CityCenter in Las Vegas, will introduce the award-winning cuisine of three-star Michelin Chef Pierre Gagnaire at the luxury hotel’s signature restaurant, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire.

Opening in December 2009, Twist will be Gagnaire’s first restaurant in the United States. The innovative menu will infuse the simplicity of classic French cuisine with a modern spin, relying on a pairing of flavors and textures for which Gagnaire is known.

In a distinguished career that spans more than 35 years, Gagnaire has gained the highest acclaim for his restaurants in Paris, London, Tokyo, Seoul, Dubai and his namesake restaurant, “Pierre” at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. 

Gagnaire is well-known for being at the forefront of the fusion movement. Beginning his career in St. Etienne, Gaganaire won three Michelin Stars and tore at the conventions of classic French cooking by introducing radical juxtapositions of tastes and textures. His influence on cooking has been recognized worldwide. 

Las Vegas Backstage Access will provide you a spot or feature article and/or professional photography for this or any of the many new venues opening in CityCenter this December for your publication.  If interested, please provide comment to this article or newsletter/contact tab and we will get back to you.

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“What Happens Here, Stays Here” Ad Slogan Competes for Madison Avenue Hall of Fame

The “What Happens Here, Stays Here” Las Vegas slogan is up for one of the biggest awards in the advertising world: a spot on the Advertising Walk of Fame on Madison Avenue. 

Still going strong after seven years, R & R Partners says its wildly popular advertising slogan was the brainchild of two employees. Interestingly, both say they each came up with the idea on their own at the same time.

But before “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” they tried a several campaigns, including “Freedom Party”; “Vegas is Calling”; “What You Want, When You Want It”; and “Las Vegas – Open 24 Hours.” 

None of these, or any new ones for that matter, have had the same impact.

“In the recent economic downturn, we’ve had to take the campaign in some different directions,” explains Randy Snow, R & R Partners. “And people have asked what happened to ‘What Happens Here, Stays Here’?” 

The winner will be announced on September 22. 

Las Vegas is up against several other tourist destinations in the competition, including the “I Love New York” and “Virginia’s For Lovers” campaigns.

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Las Vegas Hires Terrorism Analyst

Travelers to Las Vegas can perhaps feel a bit safer as they spend, win or lose money in the popular city. Last week, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) voted to create a terrorism intelligence analyst position to work with the Metro police in the Southern Nevada Counterterrorism Fusion Center. 

The board voted to spend nearly $480,285 over three years for the position, which they hope will also assure business travelers, meeting planners, and conventioneers of their safety. 

According to the Las Vegas Sun newspaper, intelligence analyst would be appointed by Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie and would serve as a liaison to the LVCVA on terrorist activities. Metro officials told the Sun that there have been no major terrorism threats to Las Vegas but they recognize the city is a potential target.

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A Safe & Sane Las Vegas? Prive Nightclub Says So

Apart from some staunch Las Vegans who feel – and sincerely hope – that “Sin City” will change its long-standing dastardly moniker and morph into a hotbed for bio-med and other non-sordid industries, it’s not going to happen, at least according to many Las Vegas authorities, including casino mogul Sheldon Addison and his many cohorts. Prive

Las Vegas has, is, and apparently always will be all about entertainment oozing from its every eclectic pore.   Tourists, the Las Vegas lifeblood, come to entertain and be entertained– and, like the advertising slogans oft allude to, not always in the most savory of pursuits.  

Having a drink- or ten – staying up to the wee hours, while chasing microscopic skirts or quaffed GQ gents is the regular modus operandi for many in Las Vegas.

But could that historic Las Vegas lifestyle be facing evolutionary, if not revolutionary, pressure to change? 

Taking the cue from pop entertainment icon visitors Brit-Brit, Paris Hilton, LiLo, and others, perhaps that decadent, yet strangely renewing lifestyle of old is, like life itself,  changing– is guzzling chic water and partaking in only good clean fun becoming the evolving new order ruling the night? 

Enter Prive Nightclub, the current poster child for potentially a ‘New Deal’ in Vegas.  The nightclub reopened late last Friday night to throngs of partygoers waiting for hours to get in after the club was shut down and a $500,000 fine paid by Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in July to Nevada gambling regulators for the private Las Vegas nightclub’s many prior indiscretions, including hiring employees with criminal records, allowing minors inside the club and permitting underage drinking, drug use, taking dangerously drunk customers and dropping them off unattended in the casino, and physical and sexual assault by nightclub employees. [July 19 Las Vegas Backstage Access article.] 

It was almost like the past never happened.  In fact, many party going tourists from outside Las Vegas, didn’t even know the trendy club and sister ultralounge, The Living Room, had been shut down.   Once one was lucky (and skillful) enough fight the throng of hundreds waiting behind the entry ropes and get the inside, they found the club didn’t miss a single thundering beat, testified by the quaking, packed dance floor and eye-candy go-go dancers aplenty shaking their overflowing assets like no tomorrow.  Rapper and music producer Jermaine Dupri took to the turntables later in the evening, seemingly possessed and oblivious to the prior entertainment history lesson. 

What was different, though, was that topless and otherwise lewd and somewhat lascivious activity – the stuff that made Las Vegas a leading “no tell” tourist destination – was curiously absent.  Add to the fact, hotel-casino staffs were also allowed to enter unencumbered, not escorted by Prive security, as was the customary practice before, presumably to catch sin before it starts. 

Prive is encouraged to remain in good graces, as their temporary opening license is good only through Sept. 20, unless it is extended by the county.   Before that, on Sept. 1, club officials are scheduled to appear before the Clark County Commission to check to see if they are remaining nice and not naughty. 

Before you think this Prive incident is a statistical rare anomaly, think again.  Much like the H1N1 pandemic virus, club actions similar to Prive are all pervasive in Las Vegas– it’s just that similar nightclubs haven’t been caught- yet. 

While Las Vegas Backstage Access doesn’t ever condone actions that hurt anyone, intentionally or unintentionally, save this, we feel that partying and risqué fun in the spirit of Las Vegas isn’t such a bad thing.  Las Vegas is not Olathe, Kansas. 

In the final analysis, is Las Vegas squeezing the “sin” out of Sin City?   

Will late night milk and cookies, and an occasional Stevie D trendy gourmet sucker, rule the New Vegas scene, much to the detriment and demise of a unique lifestyle- and contribute to further waning of club revenues?

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Fliers Shun Las Vegas in July

July was a real bummer for fliers coming to Las Vegas via McCarran International Airport.   The Clark County Department of Aviation said that 3.56 million people flew in and out of McCarran in July, down from 3.92 million a year earlier. McCarranAirportColorConv80dSMALL

For the year-to-date through July, McCarran’s arriving-and-departing flier count is down 11.5 percent, having fallen to 23.78 million fliers from 26.86 million fliers in the same period a year earlier. 

Michael Boyd, an airline consultant with the Evergreen, Colorado firm Boyd Group, said the year-to-date passenger drop is wider than the nation’s current 8.5 percent drop. 

Boyd also suggested that the passenger traffic drop could have been shallower if not for the comments made earlier this year by President Obama (prior article by Las Vegas Backstage Access).

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International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas Offers Huge Camera Showcase

The 2010 International CES show will feature top companies with the latest products in digital imaging hardware and software in its Digital Imaging Showcase. Produced by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the 2010 International CES, the world’s largest tradeshow for consumer technology, returns to Las Vegas, January 7 through 10, 2010.

With many consumers looking to improve the quality of their digital imaging technology and libraries, the Digital Imaging Showcase this year will be bigger than ever before. CEScamera

Digital imaging – and high quality digital cameras in particular – remain a central focus for consumers, as household penetration of digital cameras reaches nearly 80 percent and shipments of digital cameras featuring more than 10 megapixels are projected to increase by 237 percent in 2009. Shipments of digital cameras are estimaged to generate $6 billion in sales in 2009, with more than 30.5 million units sold. 

The Digital Imaging Showcase will feature more than 37,000 square feet of exhibit space, with more than 60 exhibitors in South Hall 3 of the Las Vegas Convention Center. This dedicated exhibit area will feature all aspects of the imaging product category, including cameras and capture devices, storage, software, printers, kiosks, bags and accessories. 

Top imaging companies will be featured at the 2010 CES such as ATP, Kodak, Iomega, Tiffen, Wacom and Wynit. Other major imaging companies exhibiting at the 2010 CES include Canon, Casio, Fuji, JVC, Lowepro, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony. 

For more information and to register to attend the 2010 International CES visit www.CESweb.org .

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High-Flying Naked Las Vegas Tourist Nabbed

It’s not uncommon to have tourists to take off their clothes when arriving in Las Vegas (because of the intense heat, of course), but a passenger yesterday onboard a Southwest Airlines flight to Las Vegas  decided, apparently, he couln’t wait, and removed his clothing mid-flight, forcing the pilot to turn around, authorities said. 

Police were there to meet Southwest Flight 947 when it returned to the Oakland Airport, where it had departed 30 minutes earlier. 

The passenger’s name wasn’t released and authorities did not say what prompted him to take off his clothes, but they did say he was involved in a fight with a female passenger who was reportedly slightly injured. 

Flight 947 was originally bound for St. Louis, Missouri, but was making a stop in Las Vegas. It landed just before 11:30 a.m. and was scheduled to take off for St. Louis Thursday afternoon.

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Dine Way, Way Up in the Las Vegas Sky- No Walls!

Las Vegas always loves hosting the unique, out of the ordinary experiences – even crazy stuff – for our visitors and Las Vegans like.  Now Las Vegas fun doesn’t have to stop before dinner, but can continue all the way through it- way, way up in the sky! DinnerInTheSky

An unforgettable dining experience is being offered by Dinner in the Sky at 2800 West Sahara Ave. in Las Vegas, where 22 dinner guests dine suspended over 160-180 feet in the Las Vegas air!  The guests sit comfortably at a Sky Table, dining on fine food prepared by Sky Chefs while enjoying spectacular views of the Las Vegas valley and skyline. 

Twenty-two Formula One race car style seats with five-point harnesses are affixed to the perimeter of a 17-foot-by-30-foot platform. Diners take their seats and a “Sky Chef” and three “Sky Waiters,” who assist in the final food preparation and serving of dishes such as “Sky-High Chicken” or “Over-the-Top Filet,” stand in the middle of the platform. 

Chefs prepare and serve the food in the air. Diners have no floor beneath them, though they do have foot rests. Diners can also turn their seats 180 degrees. 

The five-star dining experience happens by the use of a 250-ton, hydraulic, telescoping crane that reaches up to 183 feet into the air, smooth as riding on an elevator. The platform and seats weigh seven tons, are held by eight cables and need a really strong wind to make it scarier than exhilarating– the entire apparatus is rated to be safe in winds up to 35 mph. 

Dinner in the Sky, open from 3 p.m to midnight six nights a week, costs from $200 to $500 per person. It is costlier if, for instance, diners wanted to take their “flight” — term for going for a sky-high dinner — during sunset. 

Each dinner guest is always treated to extra special VIP treatment.  They offer pick up and drop off at your hotel, a red carpet reception, complimentary photography and access to the Sky Lounge, a fun and festive place to party down or just relax before and after your flight. 

The lofty dining idea was first conceived in Belgium, but now has spread to Canada, China, and more than a dozen other countries around the world.  

Las Vegas was the first and still is – for now – the only place in the U.S. to experience the unique dining experience.

Now the high-hanging gastronomical business wants to expand and open a new Las Vegas location smack dab on the Las Vegas Strip in the burned-out remains of the Trump building sales office across the street from the Wynn properties, just north of Fashion Show Mall.  

Obviously, his neighbor, casino mogul Steve Wynn is not at all hep into the idea, thinking it will draw people away from his current Wynn and Encore Las Vegas establishments. 

Terry Murphy, who spoke on behalf of Wynn Resorts at the July 21 Planning Commission meeting, said “this is just not acceptable in terms of what the Wynn is asking for in their neighborhood.” Wynn Resorts complained that Dinner in the Sky is a “carnival-like attraction.” 

The owner of Dinner in the Sky chuckled at the “carnival” characterization. 

This Wednesday, August 19 the Clark County Commission will review the proposal. 

The owner says that if he can move to the Strip, he expects the number of Dinner in the Sky employees to increase from 15 now to about 80 by the end of the year.

He also says Steve Wynn will be pleasantly surprised once he sees it up and running. 

“We’ll have patrons who will pay $200 to $500 per person, and those are the kind of people you’d think he would want to visit his hotel across the street,” he said.

For more information or reservations, please call 702.257.7303 or 1-877-4SKYDINE or visit http://www.dinnerintheskylv.com/

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Chef Emeril Lagasse Announces ‘Lagasse’s Stadium’ in Las Vegas

Chef Emeril Lagasse and The Palazzo in Las Vegas announced Lagasse’s Stadium – a ground-breaking new place to dine, watch and play – opening this fall at The Palazzo Resort-Hotel-Casino. Sports fans will be in the center of the action while enjoying Chef Emeril’s world-famous cuisine and warm hospitality in this new state-of-the-art venue.  EmerilLagasse

Custom sports viewing walls consisting of nearly 100 high definition screens will provide unprecedented access to nearly every major college and professional sporting event, including must-see bowl games, track races, tournaments, and championship match-ups. 

Lagasse’s Stadium will be Lagasse’s third project with The Palazzo and adjoining Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino. The other two endeavors include the acclaimed Delmonico Steakhouse at The Venetian and Table 10 at The Palazzo. 

“Lagasse’s Stadium will be the ultimate sports bar and restaurant on The Strip,” said Rob Goldstein, president and COO of The Palazzo and The Venetian. “With its accessible location and unique design it will provide sports enthusiasts a great location to kick- back, relax, and enjoy great food and beverages while watching their favorite sporting games and highlights on the big screens.” 

Renovation of the 24,000-square-foot space, formerly occupied by The Sportsbook Bar & Grill, began in June. The club also features access to a street level outdoor space bordering Las Vegas Boulevard. Spectators can enjoy impressive views of The Palazzo and the Las Vegas Strip while dining in a unique open-air setting. The location will feature lounge and stadium-style seating, and luxury boxes for exclusive private events.

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Elvis Enters Las Vegas ‘House,’ Prepares for New Cirque du Soleil Show

Elvis?  Isn’t he dead?  Naah.  In Las Vegas, the iconic entertainer never really died- he just morphed into impersonators galore, performing one after-life performance after another.  cirque

Cirque du Soleil is capitalizing on the the never dying Elvis fever big-time, preparing for their new Elvis show “Viva Las Vegas,” slated to open this December at CityCenter, located on 67-acres on the Las Vegas Strip between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo, boasting the largest private development – and most extravagant – in United States history which will add 6,000 new hotel rooms to the existing Las Vegas inventory of 140,000 rooms. 

The seventh Cirque show in Las Vegas will be housed within Aria at CityCenter, a 61-story, 4,004 room gaming property featuring the most technologically advanced green-sustainable suites in the United States. 

Making a marketing splash last Saturday, 22 of the 75 new cast members arrived in street clothes in Las Vegas from Montreal, Canada, Cirque’s headquarters, to a hearty serenade of the theme song from Elvis’ 1964 film by more than a dozen colorful characters from “Mystere,” “Ka” and “Criss Angel Believe,” three of Cirque’s six shows in Las Vegas.  

The new troup arrivals will have three weeks to find a place to settle in Las Vegas before resuming rehearsals. 

The remaining cast members will arrive in Las Vegas over the next couple of days. 

Cirque production manager Mike Anderson promises fans will feel Elvis’ presence in the CityCenter theater. The show, directed by former Michael Jackson choreographer Vince Patterson, will feature dancers, acrobats, “a killer band and a lot of guitar elements,” Anderson said. 

Priscilla Presley, who married Elvis in Las Vegas in 1967, was among a VIP group that got a preview of the show last Wednesday. Also attending was CityCenter boss Bobby Baldwin and Robert Sillerman, who purchased 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises in 2004 for $114 million.

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Nevada Bill Proposed to Stem Anti-Resort Travel Policies by U.S. Government

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently introduced a bill that would make it against the law for government bureaucrats to implement travel policies that prohibit official travel to destinations “perceived to be a resort or vacation destination.” 

Reid’s bill, called the “Protecting Resort Cities from Discrimination Act of 2009,” is the result of months of bureaucrat wrangling and issued in response to reports of myriad federal offices banning travel to resort destinations (especially Las Vegas) in favor of more staid locations.

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Las Vegas Mob Museum is Groundbreaking “Hit”

It has been long anticipated for years, fighting one financial hurdle after another, but finally the groundbreaking for the long awaited mob museum took place yesterday.  Keeping true with the mob theme, the doors to the museum were actually busted in. Armed with a baseball bat, Las Vegas Mayor Goodman took a hefty swing and officially knocked in the doors to the museum. OscarGoodman2

The colorful and jubilant ex-mob lawyer promises the museum will provide a unique and entertaining experience when visitors step through the doors. The museum will allow visitors to travel back in time and take part of what it was like to live in the era of the mob and even be part of the law enforcement that brought the mob down.   

Mob memorabilia for the exhibits has been pouring from all over the U.S., much like oozing cement for stylish “cement shoes.” 

“This is a great day for the city of Las Vegas, celebrating the start of construction on our next great attraction, the Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, which will be commonly known as the mob museum,” Goodman said.

One anticipated attraction to the museum will be the actual wall that was part of the St. Valentines Day Massacre back in 1929. 

Mayor Goodman says he has been getting plenty of calls from people all over the country who are interested in coming to museum once it’s open. Goodman says once open, they expect to earn $600,000 to $800,000 a year. 

Construction on the building will start now and then will move to the actual museum. In all, they anticipate having the museum open and ready by 2011.

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Best Dam Sight in Las Vegas

If you’ve driven over the Hoover Dam, you know it’s not the most relaxing thing you’ve ever done. Far from it.  The drive is torturously slow, usually with the traffic backed up for as far as the eye can see.  

But all that’s changing.   The Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is about to reach a milestone event, with the final piece of the supporting concrete arch to be placed on the $240 million bypass project by the second week of August, thanks to the hard work of some 1,200 construction workers and 300 engineers that have battled Southern Nevada’s extreme heat and high winds. HooverDambypass

Spanning 1,900 feet across the Black Canyon just south of the dam, the 1,060-foot arch will be the longest in the Western Hemisphere.  In two months, after the arch is completed, the temporary cables will be removed. 

When the whole schmazel is complete in late 2010, it will provide for four lanes of traffic 900 feet above the Colorado River, providing a more convenient and much safer way to traverse the Black Canyon and travel between Arizona and Nevada.

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140 Teams Converge in Las Vegas for National Softball Tournament Today

110-degree temperatures and sweltering humidity doesn’t phase a field of 140 fastpitch softball teams from around the United States, including five from Las Vegas, that begin play today at Majestic Park in Las Vegas in the USA/ASA 18-under Class A national tournament.  Nearly every state is represented. 

It’s such a high-demand and competitive tournament that Las Vegas won’t be permitted to bid on hosting the tournament again for seven years. 

Each team will play two pool games today and Tuesday with a double-elimination bracket play starting Wednesday.  Games begin at 8 a.m. daily.  Tournament concludes Sunday.

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Sea Creatures Invade Las Vegas

Getting tourists to brave the scorching heat and temptations of sin and hang out in Las Vegas is a challenging enough proposition in our economy.  But don’t tell that to the millions of party going mussels that somehow got landlocked in Lake Mead in Las Vegas. 

The first quagga mussels turned up at the lake from their secretive Great Lakes sojourn in August 2005.  Since then their numbers have mushroomed to an estimated three trillion, according to University of Las Vegas professor David Wong, who says they’re “arguably the largest invasive species of freshwater systems in North America.” 

With female mussels capable of reproducing one million offspring in one reproductive season, it’s no surprise the numbers have grown geometrically. 

Apparently, the little buggers don’t pose any inordinate danger to the Las Vegas water supply.   J.C. Davis of the Southern Nevada Water Authority simply says they’re “an operational headache that has to be managed,” adding that screens on the intake pipe at Lake Mead have to be cleaned three times a year. mussels

But stepping on them is like walking on broken glass, Davis says. 

Will they leave the lake when their Vegas winnings dwindle?  Nobody knows.  Some experts say the pests will grow, and then suddenly collapse because they have no food to sustain them.  Others theorize that at some point they’ll sustain the population. And others yet say the quagga population will cyclically rise and fall- the latter is the scenario most supported by authorities. 

So, don’t expect the critters to really go away.  And, besides, they filter the small particles from the water, increasing the lake’s clarity.  Think of the water as natural sake?

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Vandals Graffiti-Tag Famed Las Vegas Welcoming Sign

A sad chapter has been literally etched into Las Vegas tourist annals this week:  The famed “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign greeting visitors to the vacation destination of the world on the Las Vegas Strip had red graffiti scrawled across the bottom of it and on the supporting legs on Monday. VegasSign

Almost everyone visiting Las Vegas for the first time has made the sign a key stop in their pilgrimage. 

Needless to say, the tagging of the historic Nevada landmark has made many Las Vegas residents, tourists and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman fighting mad when the graffiti was discovered and cleaned up later in the week. 

Mayor Goodman said he was furious over the vandalism, saying, “When they graffiti’d my tortoise [new artwork on Las Vegas freeway walls], I said, ‘Off with their thumbs!’ This deserves ‘Off with their head!’”  Though reconsidering -applicable retributions later during a radio interview, he said – not jokingly – that he would be content if the perps could be placed in public pillories, letting passerbys paint the offenders’ faces. 

Authorities have still not arrested anyone for the vandalism and it’s unknown whether the graffiti is gang-related. 

The Las Vegas sign designer Betty Whitehead Willis would probably roll over in her grave, too, if not for the fact that she is still living in Las Vegas after completing the project in 1959.  Willis came up with the design after Western Neon was contracted by the Clark County Commission. The county offered the company $4,000 to build a sign to welcome visitors to Las Vegas. 

The sign is currently owned by Young Electric Sign Co. (YESCO) and is leased by Clark County. 

Last December, a $400,000 project to add parking spaces and a paved walkway on the traffic median holding the sign was finished.  The improvements made accessing the sign easier for tourists — and, apparently, for vandals. 

Tourists are beside themselves, saying they think  the vandalism is a slap in the face, appalled by the actions of few, while  racing to find people with Photoshop skills to make the red marks digitally disappear from their souvenir photographs.   

More than just complaining about it all, some tourists provided potential solutions to prevent future eyesore acts, including ideas like making the sign a hologram like in the Sci-Fi movies, or just adding a security camera to the site.  Currently, there are no security cameras on the site. 

Sadly, this is not the first time the sign has received a historic pock mark.  The site has also been the target of vandals in the past, according to the Clark County Department of Public Works. 

“We just repaired that sign a couple weeks ago,” a YesCo sign spokeswoman said. “A couple weeks ago, somebody threw a rock through it.” 

This new incident, though, marks the first time the sign itself has fallen victim to taggers. 

In Nevada’s continuing fight against taggers, the Clark County Commission recently launched a Turn-In-A-Tagger program to combat graffiti, which costs the county millions of dollars a year. Adult taggers who are caught by Metro Police, North Las Vegas or Henderson Police officers could be sentenced to help clear up graffiti, officials said. 

In May the sign was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

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MGM’s CityCenter in Las Vegas Announces Huge Retail Lineup

CrystalsCityCenter, the multi-use development opening later this year on the Las Vegas Strip, announced a collection of unique luxury retailers and restaurateurs that will join the lineup at Crystals, a 500,000 square-foot retail and dining district.

Planned to open December 3, Crystals will showcase a large and varied array of the world’s most exclusive retailers including many flagship stores.  For many of these brands, the Crystals’ location will represent their largest business in Las Vegas, the United States, or in some cases, the world.

Large-format luxury retailers that are planning to establish Crystals as a preeminent international shopping destination include Prada, Christian Dior, Bulgari, Carolina Herrera, Hermes, Roberto Cavalli, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Versace. These brands will join previously announced retailers Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. and Ermenegildo Zegna. 

Unique-to-the-market retailers opening their first locations in Las Vegas include Tom Ford,  Assouline, Kiton, Miu Miu, Paul Smith and Porsche Design, along with the previously announced de Grisogono, H. Stern, Marni, Boutique Tourbillon and Mikimoto.  Restaurants opening their first Las Vegas locations at Crystals include Eva Longoria Parker’s Beso and Mastro’s Ocean Club Seafood House.  These upscale restaurants will join an exciting new Pub concept by Todd English and two previously announced new concepts by Wolfgang Puck.

Other prestigious retailers joining Crystals’ lineup include Bally, Emilio Pucci and Ilori.  Additionally, Dale Chihuly will introduce a stunning new gallery.

The Taubman Company, the world’s leading developer of upscale shopping centers, is responsible for the leasing of Crystals.

 “We’ve assembled an extraordinary collection of retailers and restaurateurs to make Crystals one of the world’s most unique shopping and entertainment districts when it opens this December,” said Frank Visconti, president of retail for CityCenter.  “Crystals will delight guests with its unique architecture, awe-inspiring interior design, brilliant art and intriguing water features.  These experiential offerings, coupled with exclusive items from the industry’s most celebrated brands, will make Crystals a premier social and cultural environment in the heart of CityCenter.”

An architectural achievement that integrates the talents of world-renowned artists, architects and designers, CityCenter plans to attract visitors from around the world, being a landmark for global taste and style.  In addition to Crystals, CityCenter will feature ARIA Resort & Casino, a 4,004-room gaming resort; three luxurious non-gaming hotels including Las Vegas’ first Mandarin Oriental, Vdara Hotel and The Harmon (slated to open in late 2010); Veer Towers, the development’s only strictly residential buildings; and a Fine Art Collection. 

Mandarin Oriental, Vdara and Veer Towers will include approximately 2,400 residences.

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Las Vegas Monorail Races For Federal Bailout

The Las Vegas Monorail is not up for sale- yet.  It’s a transit line running 3.5 miles from the MGM Grand to the Sahara, speeding Las Vegas tourists to their destination.   Different than funding methods used now, it was a privately funded traffic solution not built with tax dollars- one of the few public transit systems in the country not backed by taxpayer money.monorail

Until now. 

Despite the promise of nine years ago, monorail officials now acknowledge they have been quietly begun seeking pubic dollars in a bid to the keep the financially troubled elevated train running. 

Fitch Ratings recently downgraded the $450 million in bonds for the Las Vegas Monorail project to “CC,” which means the credit rating agency believes a default “appears imminent or inevitable.” 

The project has $200 million in other debt, which can be repaid only after the $450 million “first tier” is repaid. 

Ingrid Reisman, vice president of the Las Vegas Monorail, said the train is now looking for federal loans through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.  Other sources with knowledge of the discussions said monorail officials are also looking at room tax money to help repay the debt. 

The project has failed to meet ambitious ridership projections used to originally sell it to public officials and investors. 

Despite it all, Las Vegas continues to wrestle with the viability of an expensive high-speed electric train or maglev line to whisk people back and forth from Southern California.  [Las Vegas Backstage Access June 21 article.]

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Get Naked in Las Vegas

For those enjoying the company of other naked people while in Las Vegas, please complete the contact link at the top of our Las Vegas Backstage Access blog and we’ll send by return e-mail a compiled listing of Vegas hot spots to let it all hang out, ranging from Las Vegas locations, groups, pools and more.

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Speeding Tourists into Las Vegas at 150 or 300 mph – or not at all?

Sooner of later, most predict, the stagnant Las Vegas economy will recover.  The only question is what the crowning stimulus will be and when will it happen.  To have over 42 million visitors annually to come to Las Vegas and stay in the projected 157,000 hotel rooms projected by 2011, bringing about a true economic recovery, what better of an enticing solution than to provide a high-speed train to supplant current driving and flying modes, whisking riders between Las Vegas and Southern California, the route usually taken by visiting tourists.maglev

It sounds like a good idea to goose Nevada and Southern California tourism numbers, but is it really a viable solution?  Political jaw flapping has been ballyhooed for years and especially now with the $8 billion in federal money available for competing fast trains that offer the best solution.

Two alternative proposals are currently on the table.  One is a publicly-funded maglev train, smoothly propelling tourists at speeds up to 300 mph by magnetic levitation into Ontario, California, close to the airport and hub for Southern California.  It uses a technology untried in this country because it is so expensive to build. The price tag- $12 billion.

The other is the DesertXpress, which would use traditional steel wheels on steel tracks, driven at speeds up to 150 mph with electric or diesel-electric power. It would end in the desert town of Victorville, requiring more than an hour’s drive to get to the terminus  proposed by the the maglev. Although the $4 billion project was pitched as a privately funded venture, its backers say now they may seek government loans.

Both of the proposed lines would transport passengers between Las Vegas and Southern California in about 80 minutes for about $50 — with one going at half the speed and covering two-thirds the distance of the other.

The choices raise pivotal questions as the nation weighs its appetite for risk and considers whether such a system should be in public versus private hands.   Would people in these financially trying times even consider hopping aboard either of these futuristic trains?  Las Vegas Backstage Access contends that that’s the key statistical profile that first needs to be researched prior to any determination on which method, if any, is best to deploy. 

This week, the federal Transportation Department is planned to unveil guidelines for those seeking to apply for a portion of the $8 billion passed by Congress as part of the economic recovery package. Decisions will be made this year.   Hopefully, the guidelines will follow from a robust, statistically valid needs analysis.

The maglev project desperately needs public dollars and has appealed to Obama’s transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, for $1.8 billion to develop the first segment — from Las Vegas to the state line at Primm — and to continue planning the rest of the route.

DesertXpress Enterprises LLC has shunned federal aid, promising to be privately financed and turn a profit, a feat no other modern rail line has been able to accomplish in this country. But it is also in the market for federal loans.

If the maglev project gets a federal boost of stimulus dollars, it could make it difficult for DesertXpress backers to raise private equity. If DesertXpress can leverage its newfound support from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, it could knock maglev out of the picture.

Maglev’s boosters say that even if DesertXpress is constructed, it will still pursue its own project. But skeptics doubt there is sufficient appetite, financial or otherwise, for the Federal Railroad Administration to permit both trains.

This maglev project is the brainchild of the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission, a highfalutin name for a nonprofit entity formed in 1988 with the sole purpose of developing a fast train between Las Vegas and Southern California.

The commission, made up of private citizens and public officials, entertained several technologies before choosing magnetic levitation in 1991 and choosing American Magline Group as its developer in 1993.

The maglev train,  proposed originally in 2002, proposes to zoom passengers between Vegas and the Disneyland area, enabling tourists in either city to experience the other, just 80 minutes away, without need of automobile. The northbound maglev would stop in Ontario to connect with the airport, and would stop southbound stop at Ivanpah, to connect with an airport planned for there. The project could break ground in 2011.

With California separately building a north-south high-speed train line between San Francisco and Orange County, the maglev team envisions passengers being able to connect to the California train at its stop in Anaheim station to continue to Los Angeles’ Union Station.

Groundbreaking for the California network could happen in as little as the next few years, funded by an $11 billion bond issue approved by California voters last year.  It is considered a front-runner in being awarded federal stimulus money.

Maglev critics, though, deride the technology as wishful futurism, and transportation experts say it is maglev’s price tag, not the science, that has left it undeveloped in this country.

In fact, the world’s only operating commercial maglev line links Shanghai and Pudong International Airport — a 19-mile-long run completed in 7 1/2 minutes.

That system, now in its ninth upgrade, is what American Magline wants to build between Anaheim, California and Las Vegas.

Not only Reid, but much of Nevada’s political class has at times supported the maglev train. And then DesertXpress plans emerged, relatively suddenly, to pose a competitive challenge.  That has left lawmakers to rework their support. Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, a former commission member as an appointee of three governors, thinks maglev is the “technology of the future,” but is now giving some thought to DesertXpress, her spokesman said.  Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley is among those who support “whichever one is successful.”  Sitting on fence.

Over the years, the commission has raised $10 million for maglev — more than $7 million in federal allocations championed mainly by Reid and more than $2 million in state and local funding.

Internal Revenue Service filings from recent years show that most of the commission’s annual expenditures go to the American Magline Group, the consortium of private companies that is developing the project.

Rail lines are an expensive undertaking:  Before a single track is laid, millions are spent drafting the inches-thick environmental review required by the federal government.

After two decades, the commission’s maglev project is suddenly losing the paper war.In just a few short years, the DesertXpress backers have spent $25 million producing an environmental report.  DesertXpress is the nation’s only privately financed train proposal before the Transportation Department’s Federal Railroad Administration.

If their plan is approved this year, DesertXpress backers say, they can raise private funding and break ground in 2010. Earlier groundbreakings have been postponed.

Although Reid secured another $45 million last year for maglev, the money has not been spent because the commission had been unable to raise the required matching funds until American Magline Group contributed the $11 million two months ago.

Should precursor rider statistics first staunchily justify the real feasibility/usage of any high-speed train, before reviewing and selecting of any particluar method, Las Vegas Backstage Access would favor the maglev proposal.  

The DesertXpress appears to be a dead-end train to nowhere proposal, a mass transit system doomed to economic and ridership failure from the get-go.  Few riders from Las Vegas, it is believed, would relish the idea of stopping in desolate Victorville and then wait to catch another train or rent a car to drive or find an airline to fly their last leg across the Mojave Desert to Southern California, adding considerable more time and expense to their trip.   

The maglev train would provide a relatively more successful ridership and would greatly boost Las Vegas tourism numbers and relieve traffic congestion at McCarran International Airport, on the I-15 freeway and in Clark County, especially along the Strip corridor. Without having the maglev option, passengers could just as easily and economically fly the entire route in one stop.  And more may just opt to do the usual four-hour plus grueling drive. Looking to long-term debt, the DesertXpress would most likely be severely challenged and potentially cause much more relative public funding than the maglev to stay afloat.

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Candy Spelling Footloose at Las Vegas’ Jewelry ‘Candy’ Show

Candy Spelling attended the luxury jewelry Couture trade show on May 28 – June 2 at Wynn Las Vegas, apparently loving every sparkling moment of it.  Spelling, whose jewelry collection occupies two rooms in her 70,000-square-foot home, enjoys attending Couture annually, where more than 200 global jewelry designers and retailers meet in Las Vegas. Candy Spelling

“I really do love jewelry,” says one of the most famous wives and notorious mothers of Hollywood. 

Spelling, who enrolled in a gemology course with the Gemology Institute of America (GIA) years ago, has recently released her new book, “Stories from Candyland,” and it has several Las Vegas shout outs.  Las Vegas is where she struck a $100,000 jackpot (the lucky keep getting luckier) and where she’s been making cameos at Couture for the past 18 years to remedy what she calls her jewelry “illness.”

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British Press Speaks Out on Las Vegas’ World Record Bikini Parade Love In

“The publicity stunt, which saw around 300 bikini-clad women parade down The Strip, will do little to improve the city’s reputation for a lack of political correctness (women were asked to send in a photo along with their hip, waist and bust measurements, before participations could be approved) but plenty to publicise the city’s famous pool party scene.”

Charles Starmer-Smith, writing in the Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom about last week’s bikini parade in Las Vegas.

“The mayor of America’s entertainment city also joined in the festivities, although he remained fully clothed at all times. He opened the event by issuing an official proclamation declaring its summer in Vegas, one month ahead of the rest of the northern hemisphere.”

Sarah Gordon, writing in the Daily Mail of the United Kingdom about the same event.

Las Vegas Backstage Access wrote on the event on May 15.

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Brits Love to Fly to Las Vegas

British Airways will start flying from London’s Heathrow Airport to Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport in October. 

With planning for this in the works for years, Heathrow, the busiest international airport will begin daily service on October 25, with a flight arriving in Las Vegas at 5:10 p.m.  The return trip to London will depart at 7 p.m. 

The airline will use a Boeing 777, photo at right, configured with 274 seats, 24 of which will be “world traveler plus,” 36 business-class, with seats that recline fully to 180 degrees, and 214 economy class seats. BritishAirways

 Fares will begin at $461 round trip, plus taxes and fuel surcharges. 

British Airways will be the second United Kingdom carrier providing direct, daily service to Las Vegas.   Although Virgin Atlantic already makes the trip it flies from the much smaller Gatwick Airport.

The new Heathrow connection will put Las Vegas within one stop of cities around the world, making it that much easier for people to travel to Las Vegas and, hopefully, boost Las Vegas’ sagging tourism.  

Based on top overseas source markets for Las Vegas visitation compiled in 2007 (latest available figures), United Kingdom passengers already account for 409,000 annual visitors, 11.5 percent of the total international tourism, second only to Canada that brings 1.5 million visitors, 41.4 percent of the total. 

Las Vegas will be the 19th American city with British Airways service.

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Las Vegas Tourism Industry Faces Tough Times

The $231.2 million budget for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority – the group charged with the responsibility for attracting visitors to Las Vegas – will be punctuated by 12 months of spending cuts, a hiring freeze and ban on employee overtime. 

“We’ve had to adjust in ways we’d never dreamed of,” said board member and MGMG Mirage executive Chuck Bowling, in a board of directors meeting last week. 

The loss of $65 million from room tax is creating challenging budget choices, which is 11 percent smaller than the budget for the 2009 fiscal year. 

The authority will save $23 million in the upcoming year as a result of a decision to suspend work on a proposed $890 million renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center.   

It will save an additional $2.4 million on salaries, wages and benefits across all departments, thanks in large part to a current hiring freeze that covers 50 open positions and tight overtime restrictions. 

Their advertising budget is not immune from the axe, as the authority shaved $3.3 million, leaving a budget of $86.5 million to advertise Las Vegas to the world. 

Declines are expected to become less steep in September, which will be one year since the Las Vegas economy went into a nose dive.

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Bravo for Wynn Las Vegas Encore

Travel and Leisure Magazine named the Wynn Las Vegas Encore to its “It List:  45 Best New Hotels in 2009” in its June issue.  The “It List” is an annual list compiled by the magazine. Encore

Travel and Leisure editors said while there are touches of opulence and luxury around every corner, “we fell for the natural touches:  sunlight inside casino and a botanical backdrop of sculpted flower beds, laurel tree, and spotted palms that make the 2.3 million square feet of public space feel downright cozy.” 

The $2.3 billion Encore, Steve Wynn’s latest creation, opened last December in Las Vegas.  It has 2,034 rooms and suites, 72,000 square feet of gaming space, five restaurants and 11 high-end retail stores.

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Las Vegas Room Occupancy Rates Bounce Back

roomsLas Vegas is not going back to their heyday of charging $500 per night room rates.   With ever increasing competition and the growing room inventory, those days are probably gone forever.  

But visitors are now at least starting to return to the bright neon of Las Vegas, lured by the lower relative room rates and successful direct marketing drives by Las Vegas hotels that are filling the weekday void left by conventiongoers whose budgets have dwindled. 

Las Vegas vigorous room marketing efforts are at last starting to pay off.  

With Las Vegas hotel demand and occupancy rates inching upwards, Las Vegas resort executives are rethinking their room strategies and are considering increasing room rates, a move that could contribute to improving their sagging profit margins and contribute to the start of a healthy Las Vegas business rebound in 2010. 

“The weekends are consistently solid now,” MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren said during a conference call last week to discuss first-quarter earnings.  “Even when we don’t have a major event we are able to occupy rooms at a solid level.” 

In January, MGM Mirage’s hotels had an occupancy rate in the 70s- a respectable statistic for many major cities but ranked poor for Las Vegas, where hotels have historically operated at higher than 90 percent occupancy.  That figures has risen each month this year, reaching 95 percent in March and 97 percent in April, in line with a year ago before business worsened. 

Las Vegas room rates although increasing, are still depressed, according to official figures from earnings reports and tourism officials.  MGM Mirage’s revenue per available room was $102, or 34 percent lower in the first quarter than the year-earlier period. 

Undaunted, Phil Ruffin, who bought Treasure Island from MGM Mirage in March, plans to raise their room rates.  “I’m not going to give rooms away.  That’s a heads-in-beds philosophy,” Ruffin said.  “I don’t want the $50 customer.” 

You can still make money – more money, in fact – by running at 70 to 90 percent occupancy and charging more for rooms, according to Ruffin.

Whether this strategy and others like it continues to work depends on the ongoing reaction of recession-battered tourists that have now tasted sweet vintage hotel price deals in Las Vegas.  

Las Vegas tourism growth, analysts say, will only continue if tourists believe they’re getting a bargain and a good combination deal- not just a good room rate, but meals, shows and drinks as well.

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Bikini-Clad Sirens Bare Skin in Hot Las Vegas, Start Summer Early, Set World Record

Las Vegas is everything kitchy. 

Las Vegas needs tourism money- lots of it. bikini

Yesterday, proving both tenets, a parade of 281  bikini-clad women seductively strutted their wares in the hot Las Vegas sun, setting a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest bikini parade. 

Parading on the Las Vegas Strip, from Wynn resort to the Fashion Show mall, the entourage of beauties was led by Playboy plaything personality and former No. 1 Hugh Hefner flame Holly Madison, flanked by two Jublilee! bedecked dancers, decreeing that “summer in paradise” in Las Vegas has started a month earlier. 

“Only in Las Vegas could this take place,” said Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who was joined in proclaiming the beginning of summer by Clark County Commisioner Larry Brown at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign – the 50th anniversary of the sign – on the south end of the Strip. 

 Participants were paid $100 and got to keep their bikinis, which were provided by various Las Vegas retailers at the mall.  The women also got a pass to one of several Strip pool parties. 

The “Summer in Paradise” branded parade, which coincided with the beginning of the Las Vegas pool scene season and National Tourism Week, cost the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority about $100,000.   The parade might become an annual event. 

Hopefully, the sizzling event will help to boost sagging Las Vegas tourism.   In March, visitor volume was down 6.5 percent compared to the previous year.  The average daily room rate was down 31.6 percent, and convention attendance was down 30 percent.  Gaming revenue dropped 12.3 percent on the Strip and 9.8 percent in the county overall.

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No Doubt Headlines Tiger Jam XII This Weekend in Las Vegas

Pop rockers No Doubt will kick off their first tour in five years when they headline Tiger Jam XII presented by AT&T on May 15 and 16 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. NoDoubt

Formed in Anaheim, California, No Doubt reached international success with their 1995 release Tragic Kingdom. That album, including the mega hit “Don’t Speak” among many others, has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. Their follow up, Return of Saturn, was nominated for the Best Rock Album at the 2001 Grammy Awards and granted a four star review by Rolling Stone Magazine. The band went on to win two Grammy Awards for 2001’s multi-platinum Rock Steady and performed at the Superbowl XXXVII Halftime Show in 2003 alongside Sting. 

After the double platinum success of No Doubt’s Singles Collection, featuring the hit “It’s My Life,” and a subsequent tour with Blink-182, lead singer Gwen Stefani released two successful solo albums in 2004 and 2006 respectively. 

TigerWoods“I’m thrilled No Doubt is kicking off their tour at Tiger Jam XII,” event host and professional golfer Eldrick (Tiger) Woods, 33, said. “They are amazing performers, and I’m honored they are helping raise funds and awareness for the millions of young people my Foundation supports.”

Saturday evening’s highlights will include top-notch epicurean fare and exclusive live and silent auctions featuring one-of-a-kind luxury items. Following the dinner and auctions, the celebration will progress to the Mandalay Bay Events Center stage, where Woods will introduce Grammy Award winners Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont and Adrian Young for a rocking concert.

“Playing this show is going to be really fun for all of us.  Tiger’s foundation empowers kids to achieve their dreams and we’re excited to help support that,” No Doubt’s singer Gwen Stefani said.

Paramore and The Sounds will join No Doubt as special guests on the Tiger Jam stage. 

Tiger Jam has garnered a reputation as being one of the premiere fundraising events benefiting children for past 11 years. Each year, the concert event hosted by Tiger Woods raises millions of dollars for the Tiger Woods Foundation and youth-driven charities in Las Vegas, as well as the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, and the GRAMMY in the Schools program.

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Nevada Travel & Tourism Sales Blitz This Week

Some may still not feel promoting Nevada travel and tourism benefits is a good idea in our stagnating economy, especially following President Obama’s February comments about frivolous travel in Las Vegas by corporations that accepted federal bailout money.  

But don’t tell that to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman or casino mogul Steve Wynn.  Both want to bend the ear – and more – of President Obama when he vists Las Vegas on May 26 and headlines a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.  (Las Vegas Backstage Access April 1 article.) 

Wynn wants Obama to specifically address Nevada tourism.  “The people that voted in the Democratic Party, for the main part, work in the tourism and travel industry as cooks and waiters and housekeeping,” Wynn said. “They are being hit very hard not only by the recession but by federal policy that has discouraged travel.” 

Providing added fuel to boost Nevada’s flailing tourism industry, six Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) staffers have taken to the road early today for a western sales “blitz” during National Travel and Tourism Week to promote special travel deals designed to boost Nevada visitor numbers, according to NCOT chairperson and Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian K. Krolicki. 

The sales team will visit travel agents, tour operators, AAA offices and other influential tourism industry representatives in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. Several tourism industry partners from around the state will accompany the staff members from NCOT’s Sales and Industry Partners department. 

“There’s no better time for fun in Nevada than now, because of the special travel deals at hotels, golf courses, shops, spas and entertainment venues throughout the state. It’s a productive way for NCOT to observe this year’s National Travel and Tourism Week and a great way to attract more visitors in this current economy,” says Krolicki.   

The team will visit AAA offices that advise consumers about travel destinations, tour operators that bring groups of customers to Nevada and receptive operators who help with arrangements in the state. At each stop they will distribute USB flash drives that contain the new NCOT Industry Partners Newsletter, Nevada Magazine’s Events and Shows publication, a listing called What’s New in Nevada and an introduction to the new Web site, NV.Mobi, which makes travel information accessible by mobile phones and devices, a consumer newsletter and special spring travel packages. They also will hand out the Visitor Guide and fliers with information about special events and attractions. 

The team will also visit six different tribes to exchange ideas and generate interest in attending American Indian events in Nevada throughout the year and meet with a Japanese credit card company in Los Angeles to promote special Nevada travel deals for the company’s cardholders. 

Nevada’s attractions and deals with tour operators and motorcoach companies will be promoted in Salt Lake City, a strong market for travel to Elko County and other points in eastern and southern Nevada including Las Vegas. 

“Tourism is a highly competitive industry, and we need to be aggressive and never let up in our sales and marketing efforts,” Krolicki said. “Nevada is a destination that allows consumers to maximize the value of their dollars, and we must do all we can to boost awareness, attract more business and maintain our place as a leading destination.” 

The sales blitz is NCOT’s second since December 2008, when economic challenges were escalating and the commission stepped up its already vigorous sales efforts. 

National Travel and Tourism Week on May 9-17 is an annual observance by the U.S. Travel Association in Washington, D.C., that focuses on the industry’s contribution to the U.S. economy, which is worth more than $700 billion.

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Terry Fator’s Quantum Las Vegas Leap

Just three years ago Terry Fator was giving a performance at a fair near Houston, Texas to an audience of one.   He considered walking away from show business but made a fateful decision to audition one more time and after winningterryfator2 the second season of America’s Got Talent, Fator has stopped wondering whether he’s in the right profession. 

Fator has signed a five-year contract to perform nightly at The Mirage Casino and Resort in Las Vegas. He is replacing Danny Gans, who has moved to Steve Wynn’s Encore, and will be presenting his show at the Terry Fator Theatre. 

But if the ventriloquist act isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, take a look at the artists who are working the room on the nights that Winston the Impersonating Turtle is taking a break.   Ray Ramono and Brad Garrett, Ron White and Lewis Black will all give it a whirl in the Terry Fator Theatre in 2009. 

Don’t  count out the entertainment value of a night with Fator and company:   “I look at myself as a talk show host and the characters are my guests,” says Fator. “I can guarantee anyone who comes to my show, within a second or two, will feel that the puppet is the real entity.”

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‘What Happens in Las Vegas Will Stay There’ for Three More Years

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has approved a new three-year advertising and marketing deal with R&R Partners, creators of the “What happens here, stays here” popular Las Vegas advertising slogan. 

The new deal is shorter than two previous five-year pacts with R&R but comes with an option for a three-year extension to 2012.

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Stay and Play in Las Vegas- PLEASE!

Las Vegas visitor volume, occupancy and spending are down as businesses and casinos continue to struggle and reinvent themselves in the recession.  Now Las Vegas is turning to their residents to help them survive.  Hopefully, this will be the winning hand that convinces residents to stay and play awhile before, during, or after their regular vacations. 

There are package deals galore offered at resorts, not only in Las Vegas, but also in Primm, Boulder City, Mesquite and Laughlin. Almost every resort and restaurant is jumping on the bandwagon by offering amazing deals so sweet, locals are opting for a staycation. 

“Stay and play here” is the new Las Vegas slogan aimed at getting locals to spend money in their own backyard. “That’s what we want them to do. We want them to stay in Las Vegas and spend the night instead of traveling to other cities,” said Palms Resort Owner George Maloof. 

Maloof, along with other resort CEO’s are making a deals people can’t refuse. Half-off dinner at Paris, discounts on rooms and rides at New York New York, to name a few. 

“I think the local people just need to be reminded of how great this city is and what great amenities we have. There’s nothing like it in the world,” said Maloof. 

The deals range from entertainment, to shopping, dining and room reservations are all listed on the website http://www.stayandplayhere.com , a site created by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. 

Almost every Las Vegas hotel and casino has jumped on the bandwagon. 

To take advantage of all the deals, all you need is your Nevada State ID.

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Cheap Las Vegas Booze, Lotsa Fun

Hey, it’s a recession isn’t it?  You wouldn’t necessarily know it by frequenting many of the Las Vegas nightclubs and ordering bottle service for your guests.  Raining C-notes is the rule, not the exception.  It’s hard to get an economical buzz on anymore. 

Until now. 

O’Sheas Casino on the Las Vegas Strip is offering – are you sitting down? – an unbeatable mouth watering 24/7 special where you can purchase a 750-milliliter bottle of Smirnoff or Jack Daniel’s nestled in a stylish brown paper bag with six austere plastic cups and a pitcher containing your mixer of choice.  All this for just $45. 

If one of their bars is packed,  don’t wait, just race to the other one. 

So, it’s time to get out and shake off the recession blues and hit the Las Vegas streets for some cheap booze and entertainment.  And for great comraderie, be sure to bring all your friends and reasonable facsimiles thereof.

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World’s Largest Heliport Plans Grand Las Vegas Valley Liftoff

Our economy is tanking, but don’t tell that to the thousands of tourists that daily fly in helicopters to get a birdseye view of the majestic Grand Canyon.  An average of 99 helicopters fly out daily from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, just six fewer than the 2005 peak.  And that doesn’t include the additional 3,500 customers that are planned to fly daily from the new Boulder City Aerocenter [Las Vegas Backstage Access April 2 article].

The first phase of the proposed 229-acre Sloan heliport, costing an estimated $115 million and projected for a mid-heliport2011 completion, will provide the home for 80 to 110 helipads.  

That will make the heliport the biggest on the planet, say Federal Aviation Administration officials. 

The heliport will also clear McCarran airport space for jetliners to bring much-needed tourists to boost the Las Vegas Valley’s economy, while safely moving helicopters away from crowded city neighborhoods. 

The FAA has recently signed off on the environmental assessment that now paves the way for the Bureau of Land Management to transfer the Sloan heliport property to Clark County.

Heliport project groundbreaking is planned for early 2010. 

Maverick Helicopters is planned to be the first tenant to lease heliport space, which may approved as early as April 7 when the Clark County commissioners meet to discuss the matter.   Two more tour operators could join Maverick in occupying the heliport.

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NASCAR Award Ceremonies Planned for Las Vegas

Although some minor details need to be ironed out, it’s almost a done deal that Las Vegas will be the new home to the NASCAR Sprint Cup banquet, awards ceremonies and postseason celebrations in the first week of December, most likely December 4. nascarawards

The event honors the top 10 NASCAR drivers from the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. 

A major event acquisition coup for Las Vegas,  for the past 27 years the prestigious event was held in New York City. 

Planning has been in the works for the past two years by Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) president Rossi Ralenkotter and his team.  Speedway Motorsports Inc., owner of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, has lobbied for the event. 

The LVCVA would reportedly pay NASCAR between $500,000 and $1 million for each year of the contract, which may be for three to five years. 

NASCAR would be the second major professional sport to shift its awards ceremony to Las Vegas this year.  Ralenkotter negotiated a three-year deal to bring the NHL awards to the Palms Casino & Hotel on June 18.

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Las Vegas Topless Strip Clubs Rain Cash-For-Customers

As former topless cabaret mogul and government informant Michael Galardi walks the Las Vegas Strip schmoozing and looking for a new gig, a high-stakes strip poker match of a different type is agressively being played out at many Las Vegas topless adult entertainment clubs. 

Long a “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” accepted business practice, Las Vegas strip clubs handsomely tipped cabbies that delivered lusty patrons to their doorstep.  Fifty bucks was the norm for over a decade.strip-clubs1

Until now.  

As home prices and sales continue to plummet and people try to find jobs or at least hold on to their employment, many Las Vegas topless strip clubs have seen fit to double the cab tip ante to at least $100 per customer.   That new ransom could equates to an average estimated payout of $5 million a year by each participating strip club.  A C-note buy in for participating in the cash-for-customers game is commonly paid by Ricks’ Cabaret Gentlemen’s Club, Treasures, Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club, and many more- at least the ones that aren’t secretly looking for new owners or staving off their bankruptcy. 

No end appears in sight for the advancing Taxi Topless War.  Many clubs are trying to recoup rising “acquisition” costs by charging higher cover charges and drink prices.   Rick’s CEO and President Eric Langan mirrors the intentions of many strip club owners, saying he has no intention to be outbid by his Sin City bretheren and is willing to write off the expenses as the cost of marketing. 

As Las Vegas cab and limo drivers rake in record amounts of dough, they’re also arguing more with doormen to cut ever higher deals.   And it’s not uncommon to see cab drivers pass up picking up ladies waiting for a ride on the street in favor of waiting gents that can bring them more revenue.

Casino hosts, too, are also rapidly buying in to the very lucrative cash-for-customers game.   They’re not just referring their clients to the strip clubs, but hosting them inside the caverns of lust.

And, of course, you can bet your last dollar that the IRS will eventually come sniffing around and look for its due.

Recession hitting the Las Vegas topless clubs?  Pshaw!

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Las Vegas Travel Web Site Upgrades Customer Options

VEGAS.com has revamped its Web site, enabling the creation of custom Las Vegas travel package for their customers with just one visit to the site. 

The improved VEGAS.com allows consumers to move seamlessly through its many offerings , adding items to their virtual shopping carts and checking out in one transaction after all the trip’s components – travel, lodging, shows and other activities – are  in place.  

Shoppers check on ticket availability for shows and other Las Vegas entertainment options before making their hotel and airline reservations at a package rate. 

It also offers flights from 400 airlines – up from one – and supports making flight reservations to Las Vegas from 1,700 cities, up from 90. 

When combined with the thousands of hotel, show, tour, golf, nightclub and restaurant options marketed by the site, VEGAS.com estimates that it will enable consumers to choose from 207 billion possible combinations of Las Vegas tourism offerings.

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Boulder City Boosts Nevada Tourism Appeal with New Air Terminal

The Boulder City Municipal Airport in Boulder City, Nevada, located about 40 minutes outside from central Las Vegas, has been waiting many years to get a showcase air terminal for their 3,500 customers who fly helicopters and planes daily to the Grand Canyon.  Now their dream is a reality with the opening of the new $9 million Boulder City Aerocenter.  The 30,000-square-foot terminal at the airport is the project of Southern Nevada’s Halvorson family – largest air tour operators in the world – which own Papillion Grand Canyon Helicopters, Grand Canyon/Scenic Airlines and the Canyon Flight Trading Company. 

The terminal has allowed the myriad of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas flight tour operations to consolidate at one location and in so doing reduced some of the mounting air clutter over residential areas and provided more takeoff and landing slots for bigger aircraft at McCarran airport in Las Vegas.

Dramatic 26-foot tall windows face the ramp, runway, and offer a panoramic view of the desert and mountains beyond. 

A large retail store features clothing, accessories, and souvenirs, along with a photo processing center and café. 

On the second floor there are offices and a call center where approximately 350 employees accept travel reservations and conducts tours in 16 languages.

Not bad for a sleepy little Nevada town with no gambling allowed.

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President Obama Makes Tracks to ‘City of Excess’

It must not be a bad business move anymore to attend a junket in the City of Excess. 

President Barack Obama is planning to visit Las Vegas on May 26, headlining a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. 

It will be Obama’s first visit to Nevada since being elected president.   

Although it’s not known whether the president will have a public event while he is in Southern Nevada, a political firestorm and public outcry was created in February when President Obama announced in his speech that companies that receive taxpayer bailout money shouldn’t use it party in Las Vegas. 

The White House has been mum on the details of the president’s visit, but Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley says she expects Obama to talk about the importance of leisure and business travel. 

“I believe that he’s going to be using that opportunity to say…that it’s part of the American dream, this travel, and encourage people not only to do leisure travel, which Las Vegas is famous for, but business travel as well,” Berkley said last week from the House floor. 

It’s also not known if Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will be scheduling a face-to-face pow-wow with the president after the mayor requested a formal retraction from him after hearing the president’s speech statements.

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Carlos Santana to Headline The Joint in Las Vegas Hard Rock

Iconic guitarist Carlos Santana, 61, and his band, including drummer Dennis Chambers and keyboardist Chester carlossantanaThompson, has just signed a two-year deal through 2010 to do 36 shows a year in the newly refurbished The Joint, which opens on April 17.   Their Supernatural tour starts on May 27 and continues through June 14; they’re scheduled to return in September. 

Santana said he will approach his upcoming The Joint residency “from the point of bringing a spiritual confidence,” philosophically musing “a sunset and sunrise is never the same.  Making love is never the same unless you’re doing something wrong.”

Produced by media production company Frank the Plumber, the group will do four shows a week for three weeks per run.   Tickets go on sale today.

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Throttle Up for Drag Racing Action in Las Vegas Starting April 2

It all started in 1951 with one goal:  to simply move hot rod drivers and their sleek gas and nitro-burning beasts off the streets and onto the dragstrip.  The National Hotrod Association (NHRA) was born in Glendora California and after more than 50 years, it continues to be one of the most popular racing programs in the country and is a regular visitor to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. nhra

The NHRA brings the 10th Annual Summit Racing series to the Bullring in Las Vegas April 2 -April 5, 2009.  Qualifying rounds begin on Thursday, April 2 in the Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock categories but there will be more for fans and followers than just a chance to watch the action on the track.  

Three five-man NHRA teams will compete Thursday, April 2 at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships at Cashman Center in Las Vegas. The three teams are special guests of the USBC.  The NHRA Floppers, NHRA Eliminators and the NHRA Holeshots will represent the best of the NHRA bowlers in one of the oldest competitive events in the United States. 

Also, on Thursday, April 2, from 6-8pm there will be a free NHRA driver autograph session in the Key West Room at The Palms Resort and Casino. Currently scheduled to be at the event are Top Fuel point leaders Anton Brown, Funny Car points leader Ron Capps, Pro-Stock 3rd place point driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. and many more.  Fans are invited to come get autographs and take pictures with their favorite drivers. 

The NHRA will be back in Las Vegas October 29 through November 1, 2009 for the Las Vegas NHRA Nationals, also scheduled for the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Delays Convention Center Renovations

An $890 million planned Las Vegas Convention Center renovation that was once deemed to be vital for the Las Vegas tourism industry and economy is very likely to be put on official hold. lasvegasconventioncenter

On Thursday, the LVCVA said they would seek to suspend the project at least to the middle of 2010. 

LVCVA chairman and Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman called the delay practical, sighting the declining room tax revenue in Clark County, the authority’s primary income source, and other economic declines. 

The original convention center expansion proposal called for dramatic upgrades to the Las Vegas Convention Center’s façade and common spaces.  It would have increased the gross square footage from 3.2 million square feet to 3.8 million square feet that would have increased critical high demand convention areas including available meeting spaces, restaurants, food service, and taxi spaces. 

Jeremy Aguero of the economics research firm Applied Analysis said the suspension is an unfortunate reflection of the state of the economy.  In 2007, he prepared a report that said without improvements to the convention center, Las Vegas would lose $5 billion in convention-related economic activity. 

Las Vegas is the nation’s top location for trade shows and conventions.  It hosts 44 of the nation’s top 200 conventions and tradeshows, according to Tradeshow Week magazine.  Orlando is a distant second with 24. 

Goodman says he’s hopeful that work on the convention center renovation can resume in 2010.

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Las Vegas Leaders Irate Over President Barack Obama’s Remarks

It’s difficult to find anyone in Nevada, politician or otherwise, who is not ticked off – boiling mad- over President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus legislation comments on Monday while he attended a town-hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana.  Obama said: “You can’t get corporate jets, you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime.”travel

Since then Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has appeared in front of every camera and microphone he can muster, nerves frazzled and hotter than fish grease about the President Obama’s comments, demanding an immediate retraction and apology.  He followed his demand in a letter. 

In our Nevada economy that has been particularly hard hit by the recession, the enflaming remarks by could prove disastrous, many Nevada leaders say.   The number of Las Vegas tourists fell 4.4 percent last year and the descent continued in December, which saw a 14.2 percent dip compared with 2007. 

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and chief executive officer for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, appeared alongside Goodman, saying later he couldn’t put a price tag on repairing damage from Obama’s remarks. 

MGM Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher followed suit, saying Obama’s comments had “wildfire potential.” 

Most business leaders agree that extravagant, ostentatious frivolous spending is one thing, but it’s the “Las Vegas fun factor” under control that can precisely be the economic stimulus ticket to drive up the attendance at Las Vegas conventions and serve as a win-win lift for our sagging national and local economies. 

But are out-of-town business conventioneers really listening? 

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. continued to draw heat and withdrew its plan to hold a three-day conference in Las Vegas after accepting $10 billion in federal bailout funds. 

Similarly, last week Wells Fargo & Co., which received $25 billion in taxpayer money, cancelled a planned employee recognition conference in Las Vegas. 

The fear is that Las Vegas is unjustly getting a growing reputation as a frivolous destination for companies- and not just those getting federal bailout money.  To which Goodman responded, “What we’re famous for has nothing to do with the fact that you can have a serious meeting in Las Vegas.” 

Only time will tell what will be the ultimate economic tourism impact of Obama’s remarks- time Las Vegas has very little of.   It could be that Obama’s comment might tilt the economic pendulum more in favor of Las Vegas tourism, actually bringing in more tourists as Las Vegas continues to work damage control on its reputation as a place for serious business.

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Free Entertainment in Las Vegas: Fremont Street Experience

fremontstreetIn the 60’s Vegas was known for the Rat Pack, showgirls and inexpensive entertainment.   Today the $180 per person ticket for some of the best rated Strip shows is above the budget of many tourists looking for a way to get the most value for the dollar.  Perhaps that explains the interest in the Fremont Street Experience:  A no-cost spectacular that blends elements of classic Las Vegas with current technology in comfortable old-Vegas style. 

When the Fremont Street Experience was first proposed the idea of creating a pedestrian mall under a lighted canopy was not just considered risky, but ridiculous.  However, with an eye to revitalizing the downtown area and giving a boost to Las Vegas landmark hotels like Binon’s and the Golden Nugget, the city council closed a four block stretch of Fremont in 1994 and began the process of creating a unique historic Las Vegas visitor opportunity. 

Now you can step off Las Vegas Boulevard at Fremont and step into the Neon Museum – a collection of neon signs from bi-gone casino’s and hotels.  There is a selection of inexpensive curb-side and casino restaurants to choose from and hourly presentations on the Viva-Vision canopy providing free viewing.  Different bands perform each week for free on the central sound stage.  That’s also where specialty events take place several times a year, including the annual New Years Eve celebration that is jam packed with wall-to-wall partygoers. 

Please check out the Fremont Street Experience calendar for the Viva Vision schedule and for a list of hotel/restaurant options and check online for package discounts available throughout the year.

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Go to Disneyland for FREE

Representatives from Disney theme parks will be in Las Vegas this Friday, February 6, at Town Square, 6605 Las Vegas Blvd. South, from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. to encourage people to visit their attractions.disneyland

As part of Disney’s “What Will You Celebrate?” promotion, they will give away grand prizes of all-expense-paid vacations for four to a Disney park of the winner’s choice.  

Each person who registers for the promotion will receive a free admission to a Disney park on his or her birthday and an opportunity to win a variety of electronic prizes.  Valid birth documentation is required.

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Nevada Tourism Industry Under Fire

tourismNevada is home to many industries ranging from agriculture and ranching to the manufacture of lawn equipment and titanium products.  In the 1930s Nevada was known as much for the divorce industry as it was for mining.  But today, Nevada’s best known industry is tourism.  And tourism is under fire at the Carson City capital building in Nevada. 

As with most states, Nevada’s balanced budget requirement means that all the dollars and cents must equal out.  So when Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons settled in to prepare the 2009 budget, declining revenue and economic downward trending made it necessary to decrease allotments for a variety of state funded agencies.   Education and health services have received the most media attention.  But in the process of allotting the evaporating funds, the Tourism Commission and the Economic Development Commission have also taken critical budget hits. 

The primary recommendation is to merge the two departments which would generate an expected savings of 58%.  Staff would be reduced from 28 to 18 and the vacant Nevada tourism director position would remain not filled.   In addition, funding would potentially be cut to current projects that support the Nevada Ballet Theatre, the Neon Museum, and the Atomic Testing Museum.

 Some of the budget cuts currently under consideration could actually result in the unintentional decrease of part of the natural revenue stream.  Because of staffing reductions and expense controls, the Tourism Commission’s Nevada magazine, would most likely become a lighter offering.  Advertisers who routinely use the magazine to promote their Las Vegas and Nevada events may be inclined to try another media format. and once they do, many may not return. 

Unless the other 49 states once again make divorce difficult to obtain, Nevada needs to ensure that tourism dollars are being spent in the best way possible to woo vacationers to stay and play the Nevada way.

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Resorts Continue to Build in Las Vegas

Despite our economy, there still is much casino and hotel room construction going on in Las Vegas. In fact, nearly 13,000 hotel rooms remain under construction in 2009.

The $2.9 billion Fontainebleau mega-resort is planned to open late this year.  It features 3,815 rooms and suites; 27 restaurants and bars; a 7-acre pool deck with four pools; a 350,000-square-foot shopping area called the Runway; and a spa with 55 treatment rooms.  That’s a mouthful.

The Silverton Casino Lodge is undergoing a $130-million expansion including adding pools, a high-limit gaming salon and 800 slot machines.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino expects to add 950 guest rooms and expand the pool, while adding more meeting space.

The $1-billion M Resort is heading toward a March 1 opening of its 390 guest rooms and a 100,000-square-foot pool that gives the feel of being in a canyon.

Finally, construction continues on Las Vegas’ 900-lb gorilla, CityCenter, an $8.6-billion development slotted to open in late 2009.  Hotels in the project include the 4,000-room, 61-story Aria Resort & Casino; a 400-room Mandarin Oriental, the first in Las Vegas; and Vdara, an all-suite condo/hotel project with more than 1,500 units. Structural issues have delayed the opening of CityCenter’s Harmon Hotel.

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