JoAnna Haugen
JoAnna Haugen

InsightAfter a few years of slow and stalled growth (such as the abandoned Fontainebleau and unfinished Echelon resort projects), construction and development of Las Vegas hotels is moving full speed ahead again.

While there is new property construction in the city, namely the mega-resort Resorts World, expected to open in 2016, most major hotel news has been about multi-million-dollar renovations at older resorts.

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall (originally opened in 1979 as the Barbary Coast) has completely transformed itself into The Cromwell, and the Tropicana (opened in 1957) underwent extensive renovations earlier this year. The soon-to-open, completely remodeled SLS Las Vegas occupies the former Sahara Hotel, which opened in 1952. And $223 million dollars is being spent to transform The Quad (originally the Flamingo Capri, opened in 1959) into the LINQ Hotel & Casino.JoAnnaHaugen

These significant renovations have, in many cases, turned aged properties into completely new resorts. These renovation projects raise the question of how the city’s older hotels that don’t renovate, such as Flamingo Las Vegas and Circus Circus, opened in 1946 and 1968 respectively, can compete.

“I think the older, outdated hotels will not die off until my age group is no longer able to get there,” said Michele Hayenga of Travel Leaders in Kirkwood, Washington. Hayenga, who is 52, travels with her 72-year-old mother to Las Vegas. “The variety of hotels and casinos means we can stay and play at places that suit us. We do not want these huge properties with amenities that we will never use, so we do not want to pay for them.”

Though Hayenga believes the lack of amenities helps make older properties attractive, others note that upgrading aesthetic features and product offerings can help aged resorts remain fresh, appealing and competitive with properties that have been more recently built.

“I believe the challenges of old Vegas hotels can be overcome with the addition of new features and amenities,” said Spencer Spellman, editor-in-chief for Expedia.com and a frequent Las Vegas traveler. “Old Vegas hotels have lagged behind, in part, because there isn’t a wow factor like the new Vegas hotels have. This wow factor comes in the way of restaurants, nightlife or amenities, like a unique pool experience.”

The Cromwell, for example, opened Giada De Laurentiis’ first restaurant upon its reopening, and SLS Las Vegas will feature a fusion of the brand’s most successful restaurants, clubs and shopping outlets when it opens on August 23.

Jeffrey Krudop of Travel Leaders in Fort Wayne, Indiana, suggested that certain Las Vegas hotels should not be torn down, but would benefit from a thorough upgrade, while keeping their history intact.

“Golden Nugget, Harrah’s and Riviera are the ones I think could really use it the most,” he said, adding that he believes these properties need updated technology, overhauled rooms and public areas, and redone pools, spas and restaurants.

Such renovations may not offer the same product as building a new hotel from the ground up, but they offer a good option for maintaining the interest of past guests while appealing to new ones.

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