Las Vegas will need more than cheap rooms to lure back visitors, marketing consultant says

Las Vegas will need more than cheap rooms to lure back visitors, marketing consultant says

  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
May 8, 2020 5:00 AM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Other

It’s going to take more than bargain room rates, dining discounts, and gambling coupons to lure customers back to Las Vegas resorts when they reopen, according to a marketing consultant speaking at next week’s ICE North America digital conference by Clarion Gaming.

And “What Happens Here Stays Here” won’t cut it either in this new COVID-19 environment.

Resorts should tell customers in their marketing and communications to change their expectations on what the Las Vegas experience will be like in the era of social distancing, masks, the continuing closure of shows, clubs and other amenities and reassure guests on the steps properties are taking to make their trips safe, said Corey Padveen, a partner with t2 Marketing International, who will appear May 13th with Brian Edwards, founder of Edwards Technologies, when the day’s programs focus on reopening casinos.

“You can’t jump back into your normal marketing,” Padveen said. “We need to change the messaging that it’s not just about ‘we have cheap rooms and good deals this weekend.’ It’s more about how you’re going to be kept safe and secure in your visit to the property and here are ways you can do that, so you’re prepared once you actually arrive.”

That safety message can be enhanced, Padveen said, by more resorts making investments in technology over time, especially artificial intelligence, to streamline the guest experience to one with less contact. Las Vegas needs this more than other resorts due to the more than 40 million visitors a year who pass through, and Padveen predicts that will be more of a focus of properties over expansion going forward.

Some Las Vegas properties have adopted technology that puts them in a better position than others, but a number of them are behind since it’s a significant financial investment that potentially can reach millions of dollars with a complete redesign, Padveen said. What’s best initially in this environment is designated check-in times for guests through a mobile app, use of a mobile phone as a room key, and even a pass for the elevator, he said.

“The approach that has been taken is that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Padveen said. “The problem we’re facing now is that it is broken and you kind of have to fix it. It’s a big undertaking and definitely requires an investment, but it’s needed if you want to reassure guests that everything is being done to protect them—that there are mechanisms in place that ensure the safety both in-room and on property.”

Limiting human interaction and providing information are two keys, Padveen said. When guests get to their room, their app or television can alert them about the room’s cleaning process and how to make reservations at a restaurant, find their table with limited interaction, and even place orders via that route. He admits it’s hard to re-program Las Vegas to have a greater contactless experience because so much of the city has been about a personal touch via hosts and VIP treatment.

On Thursday, the Nevada Gaming Commission approved guidelines for opening casinos that would trim capacity in half, require distancing at slots and table games, and that surfaces be cleaned frequently.

“The marketing message needs to shift away from here’s how your experience can be made more fun by doing this and this and this,” Padveen said. “It’s setting it up in such a way that people are being educated on how the experience is changing, then temper that expectation that it’s going to be a little bit different for the foreseeable future with these safety measures in place. You need to provide people with an outline of how to go about their next visit, as opposed to ‘here are tickets to the Golden Knights and Cirque du Soleil.’ It’s taking the approach from an educational and comforting status, rather than pushing potential upsell of property amenities.”

The free online conference starts Monday and goes through May 15th. Brendan Bussmann, a partner with Global Marketing Partners, will emcee the day’s programs on re-opening casinos.

“It’s a day about people looking at the new world that is upon us,” Bussmann said. “I will borrow a quote from a friend of mine who calls it ‘the new abnormal,’ as we hope at some point to get back to normal. One of the big questions is, how do we start back up in the era of COVID and what are the best practices along the way?”

Southern California is expected to be the best target for luring visitors to Las Vegas, thanks to being close enough to drive, combined with a reluctance by many to consider flying for now.

“I think there will be an initial pop when resorts open because people are a little exhausted looking at the four walls of their home,” Bussmann said. “The frequency after that will depend on whether people feel comfortable. I think it will take some time to get back to normal.”

To register for the conference, go to