This year is looking a lot like 1993. No, Hillary Clinton isn’t living in the White House, and the Chicago Bulls couldn’t be further from the playoffs. What’s looking familiar is the glut of attractions opening—and forthcoming—in Las Vegas.
More than 20 years ago, the tourist corridor was awash with amusement-style diversions, heavily factoring into themed resorts like Excalibur, MGM Grand, Luxor and Treasure Island. Now, with gaming revenue way down—especially with younger generations—casino companies are once again investing in non-gaming amenities. It’s evolution, says Kevin Bagger, executive director of the research center at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “There have been general waves, whether it’s the mega-resorts, the waves of significant investment in incredible food and dining, of nightclubs and dayclubs, [and of] retail shopping experiences. We had a wave with other attractions, like Shark Reef and [those at] Caesars [Palace]. Now there’s a wave of new experiences we’re seeing emerge as they happen.”
Which is to say: This is a recent, unfolding development. This month alone saw the announcement of a major attraction and the unveiling of another. The latter is Excalibur’s interactive Ultimate 4-D Experience, which opened three weeks ago and features programs based on films like The Lego Movie, San Andreas and—for the holiday season—The Polar Express. Then there’s the $20-million Fly Linq, the Strip’s first zipline depot, boasting a 122-foot-high tower capable of launching up to 10 zipliners over the length of the Linq Promenade.
MGM introduced a virtual-reality arena at MGM Grand’s Level Up in September, and announced an eSports arena for Luxor in April. Summer saw the Fear the Walking Dead: Survival maze open at the Fremont Street Experience. And in October, Steve Wynn revealed more details about his Paradise Park amusement lagoon, slated to open in 2020 (also the year Genting plans to finish its attraction-rich Resorts World megaresort).
The thirst for these types of diversions is growing, according to the LVCVA’s research. Thirty percent of all visitors partook in a paid attraction in 2016, compared to 20 percent just a year earlier. Tourist spending on entertainment and sightseeing—two categories with which attractions overlap—is also up, as is visitation by the coveted 21-to-35-year-old demographic. “What stands out with millennials—and not only them—is they have more desire for experiences rather than things,” Bagger says. “That fits well with anyone promoting travel.”