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On a recent Saturday night, outside the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, a crowd gathered on the sidewalk to capture videos of the resort’s famous fountain show.
Inside, more visitors milled around the hotel’s Conservatory & Botanical Garden, snapping pictures of the fragrant flower blooms and the giant hummingbird and purple butterfly displays suspended from the glass enclosure. Steps away, just past the lobby where the hand-blown art of Dale Chihuly blossoms as it clings to the ceiling, masked guests, separated by plastic barriers, tested their luck at the blackjack tables.
Scenes like this are returning to resorts all along the Las Vegas Strip as visitors begin to slowly come back to a city that — just a year ago — was in the midst of a 78-day shutdown. It’s a welcome sight for a hospitality industry ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning May 1, casinos and restaurants will be able to operate at 80% capacity, and full occupancy is expected by June 1. The statewide mask mandate will remain in place for the foreseeable future, but a relaxing of the social distancing guidelines (from 6 feet to 3 feet) will allow for more shows to reopen.
“This is the moment we have all been waiting for,” said Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, in a statement announcing that Mystere at Treasure Island and Bellagio’s “O” will return in late June and early July 2021. “Almost 400 days have passed since we had to take a temporary hiatus, and we have been anxiously awaiting our return to the stage. I just can’t wait to see the lights go back on.”
Some smaller shows, such as Absinthe, a wild spectacle and 10-year Strip staple in a tent outside Caesars Palace, have already opened with socially distanced seating and cashless, QR code-based cocktail service to eliminate lines at the bar. And now, larger shows and even residencies have announced reopening dates this summer. Bruno Mars will be among the first headliners to perform when he hits the Park MGM stage on July 3, and Usher is scheduled to kick off a new residency at Caesars Palace on July 16.
The rebound coincided with the opening weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in mid-March (no pun intended), and a steady stream of visitors have made their way into Las Vegas every weekend since, although weekday occupancy remains low.
Experts predict, however, that the return of concerts and conventions later this year will help the city get back on track.
World of Concrete, a large construction convention, is scheduled to take place from June 8-10, and the outdoor Life is Beautiful Music & Art Festival, set for downtown Las Vegas on September 17-19, recently announced its lineup, headlined by Billie Eilish and Green Day.
But perhaps nobody is more excited than the Las Vegas Raiders, who hope to finally open Allegiant Stadium to fans and play in front of packed crowds this fall.
Even as Las Vegas slumbered, two new resorts opened and a third mega-resort is on the horizon. Back in October, the 777-room Circa Resort & Casino , with its tiered Stadium Swim pool complex, made its debut in downtown Las Vegas, while Virgin Hotels Las Vegas opened just last month.
Next up is Resorts World Las Vegas. In a sign that Las Vegas is worth gambling on, the $4.3 billion property, which opens June 24, isn’t holding back as it enters a post-pandemic world.
Resorts World will have 3,500 guestrooms and suites under three Hilton brands, including Conrad and Crockfords; more than 40 restaurants and bars; and a 5,000-seat theater. It’s not skimping on entertainment, either. DJs Zedd and Tiesto will play at Zouk Nightclub, while Celine Dion, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan have signed on as resident artists.
Scott Sibella, President of Resorts World Las Vegas, summed up what a lot of Las Vegas is feeling.
“We are filled with gratitude and excitement as we approach our opening this June and hope to play a role in Las Vegas’ rebound after what has been an incredibly challenging year for the destination and greater hospitality industry.” The DetailsLas Vegas Convention and Visitors Authoritywww.lvcva.com