New Year’s timing could be better, but ‘powerful’ weekend is expected

Nousha Salimi / AP

Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses sings during a 2010 concert in Abu Dhabi. The band will close out its 2011 U.S. tour with a Dec. 31 show at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel.

2010 NYE: Fireworks and the Scene on The Strip

Fireworks and New Year's Eve on The Strip on Dec. 31, 2010. Launch slideshow »

If Las Vegas casino bosses could pick the perfect day for New Year’s, it wouldn’t be a Saturday. A Thursday would fit the bill, laying the foundation for a four-day party weekend. A Monday would be almost as good, with a long weekend run-up the festivities.

To be sure, no one’s complaining about this year’s turn of the calendar, as a record 314,000 visitors are expected New Year’s weekend to spend $192.6 million on non-gaming items. Room rates and visitor spending are expected to be up from a year ago, according to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, and are nearing 2006-2007 levels, which marked the height of the economic boom. Yet there’s a sense that a more Vegas-friendly calendar would have offered a greater boost to the region’s fortunes.

“This isn’t the greatest calendar, but they’re going to get a powerful three days out of this,” said Anthony Curtis, publisher of the market-watching Las Vegas Advisor newsletter.

Room rates are considered a healthy gauge of economic activity in the region on any given weekend, and in the supply-and-demand world of the hotel industry a late-November Advisor survey of New Year’s room rates found credit card-challenging — if not budget-busting — rates for one-, two- and three-day stays.

A two-night stay in a standard room at Mandalay Bay was going for $950, up from a year ago but down from $1,300 in 2007. Three nights in a standard room at the Wynn were $1,457, compared to $1,398 for two nights five years ago.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Longhorn Super 8 Hotel on Boulder Highway was charging $110 for New Year’s Eve, as of a month ago. That was down from $128 for New Year’s Eve 2007. A quick search of the travel search engine Kayak on recently found top-tier hotel room rates throughout the city exceeding $500 for New Year’s Eve.

Of course, New Year’s weekend is the grandaddy of all Strip celebrations and finds property marketers going all out, bringing in some of the trendiest names to host events in showrooms and the nightclubs that drive much of today’s free-spending party scene, replete with $350 bottles of liquor.

For instance, the Hard Rock Hotel has legendary rockers Guns N’ Roses at The Joint on New Year’s Eve, with room and show packages starting at $1,299 for a two-night minimum stay. The next night, The Joint features Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Drake, with room and show packages starting at $1,599 for a three-night stay.

Legendary musician Stevie Wonder performs at the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan, where general admission tickets start at $250 plus tax. Former Playboy pin-up and Baywatch star Pamela Anderson hosts a party at MGM Grand’s Studio 54 for $150 per person.


• Singer, songwriter and actress Fergie hosts a $200-a-person New Year’s Eve party at The Mirage.

• Singer, songwriter and record producer Bruno Mars appears for $220 per person at the Bank nightclub at the Bellagio.

• Frankie Moreno and his 10-piece band perform in the Stratosphere Theater. Tickets are $99 per person.

• The Palms features John Legend in the Moon nightclub for $165 a person, and DJ Paul Oakenfold appears at Rain, with a $400 ticket providing access to both nightclubs, the Playboy Club and Ghostbar. An eight-person bottle-service package costs $2,074, and pay for individual bottles of vodka and champagne, drink mixer and eight tickets.

• Pure at Caesars Palace hosts singer, songwriter, dancer and actor Chris Brown, with tickets costing $150.

• LAX Nightclub at Luxor features hip-hop artist B.o.B for $100 a person.

Strip executives are optimistic that visitors will continue their recent uptick in spending, with higher rates of spending on events and nightclubs, less on gambling. The expected record attendance figure for the weekend, up from 312,000 three years ago, would receive a healthy boost from the addition of 15,000 hotel rooms during that period. Nonetheless, some can’t help but wonder if a slightly friendlier calendar would have helped that much more.

“The Monday following the 1st is going to be a holiday as well, but it’s not going to have as much of an impact. With the 1st falling on Sunday, people appear to be relaxing on Sunday and taking Monday to head on home,” said Caesars Entertainment spokesman Gary Thompson. “With New Year’s Eve on a Tuesday or Thursday you’d have a much longer weekend.”