Travel Weekly's Las Vegas E-letter: Feb. 24, 2004

THE LAS VEGAS VISITOR PROFILE for fiscal year 2003 is out. The total number of visitors to the city numbered 35.5 million, an increase of 1.3% from 2002. Other findings of the study:


• The number of visitors who used a travel agent in planning their trip to Las Vegas held fairly steady at 21%, down 1% from 2002.
• Visitors in 2003 used agents primarily to book transportation, 91%, and accommodations, 93%. That's up from 87% and 88%, respectively, in 2002.
• Agents also influenced travelers, both in destination selection, 66%, and accommodations choice, 15%. Those numbers increased significantly from figures in 2002, which were 10% and 4%, respectively.

MTR GAMING GROUP AND HARRAH'S ENTERTAINMENT signed a definitive agreement for Speakeasy Gaming of Fremont, a wholly owned subsidiary of MTR, to purchase Binion's Horseshoe Hotel & Casino. The two companies plan to jointly operate the landmark downtown property, which Harrah's officials indicated could open as soon as April 1, pending regulatory approval. Binion's Horseshoe will host the 35th annual World Series of Poker at the casino beginning April 22. Upon closing on the property purchase, expected to happen early next month, MTR will acquire the title to the property, while Harrah's will serve as the day-to-day operator on an interim basis. A joint operating agreement will have an initial one-year term but Harrah's may extend it for up to two additional years. Upon termination of that agreement, MTR will take over the operation of the property and will re-brand it according to an intellectual property license agreement in which Harrah's retains the right to the names "Horseshoe" and "World Series of Poker." According to the intellectual property license agreement, MTR will have the right to use the name "Binion's" in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.

CONRAD HOTELS, the luxury arm of Hilton Hotels, signed an agreement with Majestic Resorts to operate and manage an all-suite Conrad hotel scheduled to open one block from the Las Vegas Convention Center -- on the site of the former La Concha Motel -- on the Strip in 2006. Groundbreaking for the project, which also will include high-end residences and an upscale dining, shopping and entertainment complex known as the Majestic Resort and Residence Las Vegas, is slated for later this year. The 378-suite hotel also will offer a business center, 13 meetings rooms, one main and one junior ballroom, a spa and fitness center and a heated outdoor swimming pool.

ORBITZ AND CAESARS ENTERTAINMENT entered into a merchant hotel partnership. Under the agreement, Caesars Entertainment will provide the online travel company with enhanced access to merchant inventory at its five Las Vegas resorts: Caesars Palace, Bally's Las Vegas, Paris-Las Vegas, the Flamingo and the Las Vegas Hilton.

ALTHOUGH LAS VEGAS' 100th birthday celebration doesn't officially kick off until Jan. 1, plans already are underway for the mother of all centennials. The Centennial Celebration Committee, composed of key business and community leaders, in conjunction with Clear Channel Entertainment, is planning a series of one-of-a-kind live events, including a summer concert on the Strip that will feature some of the music industry's biggest names. The event will be broadcast nationally on television and radio stations and internationally over the Internet. As plans progress, more information will be available at www.lasvegas2005.org.

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