Consider it a problem of expectations. When guests booked the Westin Las Vegas Hotel and Spa on Flamingo Road just east of the Strip, they imagined a familiar property in line with the brand in other markets. What they found was a hotel built in the 1970s that had not received its fair share of updates with a small casino and cigarette smoke that leaked into the front desk and meetings rooms.
Not exactly typical Westin territory.
That began to change in 2015 when new ownership took over and hired Crescent Hotels and Resorts to manage the 826-room resort. That kicked off a series of renovations and changes that culminated recently with the closure of the casino and its replacement by a new restaurant and lobby bar and meetings rooms.
"The first piece was identifying that the property needed to catch up to the market in Las Vegas," says general manager Lezlie Young.
That meant renovating the hotel's guestrooms with new finishings, a comfortable work station and the signature heavenly bed and shower. That also meant relaunching the spa with fresh services and fitness classes, like yoga offered as part of the resort fee. Finally, it meant recognizing that the small on-site casino was less cash cow and more underutilized real estate.
"We found our guests were enjoying more of the Westin amenities and things like a smoke-filled casino didn't align with their expectations of Westin," Young says.
So, on July 5, the Westin Las Vegas closed down its gaming floor, went smoke-free and began ripping out its gaming machines. While the resort didn't post the news to its own website and announce it to the world, they communicated the changes to guests through pre-arrival messaging, and the response was largely positive.
"A small number of people were unhappy that the casino wasn't there," Young says. "Some people liked that it wasn't very busy, which reinforced that it was the right decision to remove it."
Now, in place of the casino floor, the Westin has unveiled more meetings space and a new restaurant concept with a lobby bar.
Jake & Eli is a three-meal eatery with a modern-American menu and a strong focus on meat and whiskey. Young sees the space as ideal for business travelers a friendly spot for a steak and a bourbon with plenty of bar seats for those dining alone or places to plug in for guests who want a productive workspace with their breakfast. The Westin's resort fee includes a daily whiskey tasting at Jake & Eli.
The renovations have also added four new meeting rooms just off the lobby, increasing the hotel's capacity by 20%. Young says the additional space is flexible for smaller groups of 10 to 75 people, and will hopefully meet demand from business travelers, who already make up a 50% of the property's guests.
The Westin's updates are continuing into 2018, with a revamp of the rooftop pool expected to be completed before the spring brings warm weather back to the desert.
Young also sees the changes appealing to younger travelers, who may want proximity to the Strip at a good value without the clatter of slots or cigarette smoke.
"They can stay with us in a nongaming environment and then head over to the Strip for retail," she says.
And for those who feel the need to play some cards, the new bar has a few video poker machines and the action of Las Vegas Boulevard is just a quick walk away.
"I walk it in heels in about eight minutes," Young says.