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Viva Las Vegas!

Of the many travel destinations welcoming visitors again after a COVID hiatus, Las Vegas is right up there in terms of popularity. If you were a resident there back in the early years of the 20th century, you might never have believed it possible, but the Wide Open Gambling Bill of 1931 ended 21 years of prohibition on gambling in Las Vegas, which was then a relatively sleepy Nevada town of barely 5,000 residents. The first casino, the Meadows, opened shortly after the law took effect. In 1942, the Strip was born on Highway 91 with the erection of the El Rancho.

            Shortly after World War II, the Las Vegas really took off, starting the city on the path to becoming the gambling and entertainment mecca it is today. East Coast mob interests in the fast-rising hotels and casinos played a big part; indeed, organized crime skimmed revenue from the casinos for nearly 40 years until an FBI crackdown in the early 1980s eradicated mob influence from the local resorts.

            Perhaps it’s hard to believe now, but atomic weapons also played a big part in the development of Las Vegas. The Nevada Test Site opened in 1951 and over the next decade would set off 100 nuclear blasts above ground, only 65 miles from the Strip. The site employed 100,000 people at its height.

            The hotels of the classic 1950s and early ‘60s, like the Sands, Dunes, Last Frontier and Caesars Palace, hosted high-rolling gamblers from all over the world, attracted not only by the wide-open gambling but by star-studded entertainment from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the Rat Pack. To see their show at the Sands in 1960, guests gladly paid $5.95 per person, which included two drinks and dinner. (That would be $57 today, truly a bargain.) In 1969, you could see Elvis Presley at the International (today the Las Vegas Hilton) for $15—also including dinner and two drinks. Presley was perhaps the biggest draw in Vegas history; by the time of his last engagement in December 1976, he had drawn 2.5 million people.

By the ‘90s, many of the landmark properties were gone, imploded to make room for sparkling new resort hotel/casinos like the Bellagio, Treasure Island, New York New York and Wynn Las Vegas. Some famous developers have made their mark in Las Vegas, including Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, Del Webb and, of course, Howard Hughes, who built a real estate empire worth more than $300 million, before jetting off to the Bahamas on Thanksgiving 1970, exactly four years since his arrival in town.

Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County are now home to 2.25 million residents, and they have no trouble finding work. Tourism in Vegas peaked at 42 million visitors in 2019, dipped to 19 million during the pandemic year of 2020 but rebounded to 32 million in 2021. More are expected this year, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority wanted to find out about these folks, and see if the demographics of the Vegas tourist have changed. They have indeed.

The average visitor to the Strip in 2021 was younger by three years than the 2019 tourist. The ’21 visitor had a gambling budget averaging $717.51, up 21.4%. Gamblers are spending more time at the tables and slots, too, three hours a day, compared to 2.7 two years earlier. The analysis shows that fewer high-rollers are coming to town, thanks in large part to the sharp drop in international travel during 2021. Some 97% of visitors were from the U.S. that year, compared to pre-pandemic levels of about 82-86%. Recent visitors also spent more on food and drink, some $465 per person during the course of the visit, up some 12%. Spending on local transportation also increased, by 22%. Shopping expenditures were at $342.29 per person, an increase of 22%. Spending on entertainment was down significantly, thanks in large part to the fact that many venues were shuttered during ’21. Convention traffic was also down, thanks to the pandemic.

Almost all visitors to Las Vegas (96%) said they were satisfied with their visit in 2021, but the percentage of “very satisfied” fell to 70%, which tourism authorities attribute to the existence of mask mandates. The survey also found that Vegas tourism is now more ethnically diverse, with 56% of visitors identifying as Caucasian, down from 77%. Sixty percent of tourists come from the western half of the U.S., and traffic from Southern California increased significantly.

This year is expected to be a big one in Las Vegas. Just a sampling of the entertainment on the schedule runs from spectacular shows like six different Cirque du Soleil productions, singers like Barry Manilow, John Legend, Rod Stewart, and Shania Twain, classic bands like Santana, Foghat, Herman’s Hermits and the Doobie Brothers, and comedy from Bill Maher, Ron White, Jon Lovitz and more. There’s magic from David Copperfield, Penn & Teller and Jen Kramer, not to mention adult-oriented entertainment that runs the gamut from…well, let’s just leave it at that.

Sounds like a good time! We’ll help you get there, from airfare to hotels to show tickets. Give us a ring, and remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!

* per person
Offer ANV25: Offer valid on bookings made from Apr 1 to Apr 18, 2022. Cruise from $1,999 per person valid on Nov 2022 departures of Rhine Getaway; Romantic Danube in categories E & F; cruise from $3,799 per person valid on May & Nov 2022 departures of Grand European Tour in categories E & F; subject to availability, call for details. FREE international airfare and FREE Silver Spirits Beverage Package valid on May-Nov 2022 departures of Rhine Getaway; Romantic Danube; Grand European Tour. Prices are in US dollars and for US residents only. All fares reflect cruise taxes, port taxes and fees. Air prices are per person based on cruise or cruise tour check-in date and include transfers. Air seats are limited; airfares are subject to change until full payment of air is received. Air does not have to be purchased to get cruise/tour offer. Airfares vary on other gateways and departures. Air offers not valid on Alaska, Hawaii, San Juan and Mexico City. Additional restrictions may apply; call for details. Book by Apr 18, 2022; pay in full by May 31, 2022 or at time of booking if within 90 days of departure. Offer expires Apr 18, 2022.

Risk-Free Guarantee: Postpone your cruise at any time up until 14 days before the planned departure, without incurring any cancellation fees. You will be issued a voucher for future travel valid for 24 months, which can be used on any Viking product (river, ocean or expedition). This temporary exception to our standard cancellation policy is applicable for all guests who currently have a reservation with Viking and for all new reservations made between Apr 1 to Apr 30, 2022 on 2022 voyages.

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Travel Designers Travel Leaders Team

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You moved your clock forward, you tested your fire alarms. Did you check your US Passport? After two years of sitting in the back of the drawer, US Passports are finally seeing the light of day again. And, we’re witnessing many customers open them up and having a moment of panic because their Passport has either expired or is about to expire. Remember: most countries require at least 6 months of validity to allow entry.
We’re receiving phone calls from distressed travelers on a daily basis because they’re attempting traveling internationally again, only to find their US Passport expired. So take a look today and plan ahead!

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Enjoy this week’s slice of travel inspiration...and remember to Dream Now, Travel Later!

As this pandemic turns into an endemic, means you can travel easier than ever, now is the time to turn those travel dreams into reality and explore the world. 
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