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Las Vegas: An Experimental Laboratory for Hospitality

Las Vegas: An Experimental Laboratory for Hospitality

Along Las Vegas Boulevard between Tropicana Avenue and Flamingo Road—one city block—there are more hotel rooms than there are in downtown Chicago. Nowhere in the world are you able to find the density of hotel rooms or the variety of hotel offerings than you can in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is unique to the hospitality industry because of a variety of tourist-focused and economic attributes. Due to the ever-changing need to rethink and redefine large resort properties and the guest experience, I often refer to Las Vegas as an experimental laboratory for the hospitality industry. This not only encompasses room-to-suite mix ratios and guestroom configurations, but also expands to amenities and public spaces. Some of the more significant changes range from a greater demand for a dayclub pool and DJ-based amenities, to a lessened demand for expansive check-in front desks as personal kiosk or device check-in services grow in popularity.

Las Vegas was one of the first markets to explore the open bathroom concepts and living space configurations, which still continues today and can be seen throughout Caesars, MGM, and Wynn properties as well as the newly opened SLS Las Vegas. Beyond the playful nature of room configurations, Las Vegas was one of the first markets to expand on the programmatic mix of typical guestroom versus suites to the point of embracing the “all suite” concept. This concept was first seen in the early ’90s with the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino and has been further expanded with THEHotel at Mandalay Bay (now the Delano) and most recently with Vdara at City Center. As branded standalone suite towers, these properties capture not only international travelers, but also the staple Vegas business and convention travelers.

Further expanding on creative programming of property mixes and also catering to a specific market group, Las Vegas led early with the “Hotel within a Hotel” concept, which seasoned Las Vegas travelers knows as one of Vegas’ best-kept secrets for a “living large” experience. These properties usually exist in either the upper floors of a hotel tower or dedicated building, and are known for their luxury amenities and level of service. The branded hotels usually have a smaller room count and are served by dedicated private elevators enhancing the prestigious experience. While there are plans to develop this concept in additional existing properties along the strip, this concept started with the Four Seasons at Mandalay Bay and continues today with MGM’s Hotel 32 (Monte Carlo), SkyLofts (MGM Grand), Sky Suites (Aria), and the branded Nobu Hotel as part of Caesars Palace.

In terms of design, trends that are currently being explored could be considered a reaction to the established typology: “Services versus opulence” and “wellness versus indulgence.” Within service, we are seeing in-room technological advances in the form of personal devices and automation, which make the property more energy efficient and add to the ease of the guests’ experience. This trend continues into rooms filled with more opulent materials, surfaces, and décor, which are trending towards being cleaner and “smarter.” Wellness concepts are continually being integrated into the guest experience as well, not only in the form of food offerings, fitness, and spa amenities, but also in the guestroom, ranging from therapeutic lighting systems to aid in relaxation and stress reduction to water and air purification systems. A full immersion of this experience can be found at MGM Grand’s Stay Well Hotel Rooms and Suites, a joint venture between MGM and Delos—a real estate company focusing on human health and well-being. Opened in 2013, there are currently 171 rooms and 18,000 square feet of meeting space allocated as part of the “Stay Well” program with plans for expansion. The value-add for the advancements of in-room technology and increased wellness amenities creates a low-carbon/energy conservation experience that not only can be marketed to travelers’ demands, but can aid in reinforcing a company’s commitment to sustainability.

Without a doubt, there has long been a lot to learn from Las Vegas in terms of design. It will indeed be a fun adventure to explore the future trends and “experiments” that will be developed in the Las Vegas hospitality market, and who knows? Perhaps in the next decade this article will be written by a robot version of an architect in Las Vegas.


About the Author

Andrew Simmons, AIA, is the director of Nadel’s hospitality studio, working out of the firm’s Las Vegas office.

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