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When Las Vegas’ nonessential businesses closed their doors in March 2020 to help curb the spread of COVID-19, it was the first time the world-famous, neon-lit Strip had shut down since President John F. Kennedy’s funeral in 1963. March saw 3,334,700 visitors, just a 10 percent dip from pre-pandemic March 2019, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The LVCVA also reported that hotel occupancy reached 80.6 percent in March — up from 59.3 percent in January. There are now few COVID-19 related restrictions in place. And the recent NFL draft, hosted in Vegas, was a huge, splashy affair here, with viewing parties all over town.
“Leisure travel has fully recovered, and the meetings and convention industry is about three-fourths recovered,” says Lori Nelson-Kraft, senior vice president of communications for the LVCVA. Tourism officials are now eager to get international visitor numbers back up to pre-pandemic levels.
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Here’s a snapshot of what else to expect in Las Vegas this year.
Hotels and Casinos
Safety protocols: Now under the ownership of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the iconic Palms Las Vegas finally welcomed back guests with a celebratory fireworks show on April 27. Circa, the city’s first adults-only luxury casino-resort, opened in 2020 with 777 vintage-style rooms, the world’s largest sports booking stadium, and the Legacy Club, serving rooftop cocktails. (There are now two other adults-only casinos: The Cromwell and El Cortez Hotel & Casino.) The stylish Virgin Hotels Las Vegas opened off the Strip in March, in place of the old Hard Rock Hotel.
What's new: In March, celebrity chef Todd English opened the boutique, non-gaming The English Hotel in downtown Las Vegas’ arts district. The four-story, 74-room hotel — including The Pepper Club, the chef’s Japanese/Mediterranean Asian fusion restaurant — is part of Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio Hotels.
Coming soon: Don’t cry for the Hard Rock Hotel just yet. Hard Rock International, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, plans to buy the Mirage Hotel & Casino from MGM Resorts and replace it with a massive guitar-shaped hotel at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. A local change.org petition aims to save the historic volcano out front.
Local resort company Station Casinos broke ground on the 83,000-square-foot Durango resort in the southwest Las Vegas Valley in early 2022. The project will include 200 guest rooms and suites, four restaurants, 20,000 square feet of meeting space and 40 electric vehicle charging stations.
Restaurants and Bars
Safety protocols: Restaurants and bars are pretty much business as usual, and mask rules for employees vary. Many places continue to offer touchless services and digital menus developed during the pandemic.