Visitors from regional, drive-in markets will be the first to arrive in Las Vegas when coronavirus concerns subside and resorts open their doors, said Don Voss, Treasure Island Hotel & Casino's vice president of hotel sales and marketing. Voss has worked at TI (part of the Radisson portfolio of hotels) for more than two decades. Travel Weekly's Las Vegas editor, Paul Szydelko, conducted a Q&A via email with Voss earlier this month:
Q: What should travelers know about Las Vegas right now?
A: Our sole focus is on the health and safety of our guests, staff, families and community not only for the present but the future, as well. We are making significant additional efforts to ensure a clean, comfortable and welcoming environment for our future guests and working with all our local, regional, national and international partners to come out stronger than ever after this crisis.
Q: What is TI doing during the closure?
A: We have doubled our efforts to finalize renovations for all 2,884 rooms and suites as well as other renovation projects. All guests will receive a newly renovated room or suite. Even before the pandemic, we planned to replace the buffet with a new dining and entertainment venue this year. We are securing new entertainment in the fall for Gilley's Saloon and the Treasure Island Theatre. We are currently focused on deep cleaning and maintenance of all public and back-of-house areas as well as our free self-park garage.
Q:What else is on the to-do list?
A: TI is consistently reviewing market conditions and the needs of our guests. As a privately owned resort, we have the ability to make changes faster than most of our competitors but always look four to five years out to stay ahead of the curve. That hasn't changed during this crisis with the exception that we understand short-term changes to operations will be required over the next several months.
Q:What are examples of those changes?
A: In the short term, we do anticipate some capacity restrictions that should be manageable simply due to reduced demand but otherwise do not expect any permanent changes in most of the public areas. On the other hand, we would anticipate more long-term changes to cleaning schedules and policies to ensure minimal risk to guests and staff.
Q: Can you share the results of research you've conducted?
A: Based on feedback from our own customers as well as research provided by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and industry organizations, we are seeing potential for pent-up demand to travel in a few months. Until then, we are seeing large events reschedule for later in the year, and we believe the shorter-term opportunities will primarily be with regional, drive-in markets once they have overcome most issues related to the pandemic.
Q: What has surprised you in the research data?
A: We have been relatively surprised by the continued demand to get back to traveling as soon as possible but are also seeing trends that most will [at first opt for] shorter-range trips to more familiar destinations where they have more confidence in a healthy environment.
Q: What will be the biggest concerns of guests and travel advsors when the crisis subsides?
A: In the short term, the biggest concern will be obtaining a healthy environment. TI is uniquely positioned in the Las Vegas market as we complete all room and suite renovations before being fully open. A year from now, we believe our core customers will continue to expect a high value for their vacation and entertainment budgets, which has always been the main mission at TI.
Q: Las Vegas has had a reputation for being "last in" during recession cycles and "first out." This, of course, feels different. What's your perspective?
A: Unlike other financial downturns, we don't believe there are any large tourist destinations that will have a significantly different experience coming out of this crisis. Nearly all will be required to make operational changes over the next several months, rely on more regional consumers and count on loyalty members to help share positive experiences upon their return to regain confidence in the traveling public.
Q: What is the most positive thing you've seen in the hospitality industry during this time?
A: The compassion and understanding from the hospitality industry has been overwhelming. From donating to local food banks, sharing information with partners and volunteering to assist those in need, the community response gives us great confidence that Las Vegas will be more than ready to offer our future guests all the services that makes our city so unique.
Q: What will you remember most when looking back on this five years from now?
A: In contrast to the financial issues that we encountered after 9/11 and the Great Recession, we will always remember this time as a truly global crisis. Five years from now, we will all have a greater appreciation of the travel and hospitality industry impact not only on the economy but the importance of getting together, sharing ideas, providing services and celebrating life.