Prices for hotel rooms and at casino tables in Las Vegas traditionally surge and recede during the holidays, but at least one pricing expert says technology may eventually allow resorts to attract the best-spending customers and worry less about empty rooms.
Anthony Curtis, a consumer blogger and publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor who has tracked room rates on the Las Vegas Strip for 27 years, says prices follow a fairly regular pattern:
• Up at Thanksgiving.
• Down until the National Finals Rodeo comes to town.
• Up during the rodeo.
• Down dramatically after NFR (which concludes Saturday).
• Finally, rising dramatically at New Year’s.
“Christmas is not traditionally a big day for Las Vegas,” Curtis said. “But Thanksgiving is.”
December, he said, would be slow if rodeo fans did not flood the tourist corridor. “It’s the deadest month of the year, no doubt,” he said. “That’s why they brought in the rodeo. The NFR solved the problem for about one-third of the days, but the rest of December is dead.”
For those seeking a deal, Curtis has a special name for the week after NFR. “Golden Week,” he said. “It has absolutely the lowest rates for the year.“ That begins to change, however, immediately before New Year’s.
“The prices will go back up the day after Christmas, or even on Christmas Day. But definitely between Dec. 26 and Dec. 31, they’ll spike and can double and triple as we get closer to New Year’s. Sometimes they can quintuple.”
The minimum buy-in for table games can also jump and drop during the holidays, but differently than room rates, casino blogger Andrew Uyal says.
Uyal, also a floor supervisor at a Strip casino, New Year’s is a very big day for gaming. Prices can jump in the time it takes a player to leave a table, walk out to Las Vegas Boulevard, and walk back.
“At New Year’s, it’s hard to find anything on the Strip less than $25 on that weekend,” Uyal said. “A lot of people will go outside to watch the fireworks. When they go outside, we raise the minimums. A lot of companies do that because everyone wants to play after the fireworks.”
Minimum bets of $15-$25 bets can grow to $50- $100 on New Year’s Eve, Uyal said. Prices on other holidays, however, largely remain the same because demand is flat. For example, on Thanksgiving, the hotels may be busy, but the tables are slow, he said.
“Thanksgiving can be surprisingly busy, but not at the tables because it’s not a gaming crowd,” he said. “There are a lot of people in town to visit family. Maybe after the families go to bed, they might come into the casinos, but not to gamble.”
In addition to New Year’s, table minimums rise for Halloween, Super Bowl weekend and during March Madness, Uyal said. Table demand and minimum bets can grow during NFR, but Uyal says he had not seen a sharp increase through the first part of the week.
Paul Murray, chief of the hospitality sector for the pricing research firm Revenue Analytics, says the peaks and valleys of holiday room rates in Las Vegas reflect an increasing level of sophistication on the part of Strip operators.
“Resorts on the Strip are pretty well attuned to the amount of demand coming into the hotels. So where there’s low demand, you’ll see more aggressive pricing try to yield off of that,” said Murray, who was once an executive in charge of setting room rates for a Las Vegas resort company.
However, there may come a day when hotels don’t need to drop room rates as much to drive business during slow periods, Murray said.
“There is a brass ring out there to be able to look at total revenue optimization across the entire hotel,” he said.
By optimization, Murray means knowing how much money a customer spends everywhere in the resort, including the room, restaurants, casino and retail areas. Once a resort company has that data, he said, it can focus more on attracting customers who spend more overall.
The challenge, Murray said, is people tend to pay for different things in different ways. They use credit cards to book rooms, cash to gamble and their partner’s credit card to pay for food or go shopping. This makes it hard to know the overall value of any one customer.
Other hospitality companies have tried different methods to gather this disparate information. He noted that the Walt Disney Co. offers its customers bracelets that can be used to open hotel room doors, get tickets for theme parks and pay for food and souvenirs.
In this way, Disney can track exactly what its customers are spending money on during their entire visit.
With a better understanding of customer spending, resorts will have a more refined method of creating offers for high-spenders and not have to chase hotel guests — or other customers for that matter — with aggressive pricing. But it’s not easy.
“Looking at an overarching view of all the elements at the same time is quite a big data problem in terms of collecting and processing data and making decisions,” Murray said. “But that’s the holy grail.”