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Strip visitors seeking value, room bookings up from last year

When it comes time to blow horns and throw streamers at midnight Friday, all the tables will be taken at Alize at the Palms and Andre’s at Monte Carlo.

Only the first seatings at 6:30 p.m. have openings, said Joe Marsco, director of operations for Gastronomy Management Group, which owns both properties.

“We are seeing a lot more inquiries and reservations than we saw last year,” he said.

While the numbers might be up from a weak holiday a year ago, the tabs come closer to restraint than letting loose.

“I think people are still looking for a value-oriented experience,” Marsco said. “They are not denying themselves a good dinner or a bottle of wine, but they are not as opulent as three, four, five years ago.”

Gastronomy Management’s outlook for New Year’s Eve, year in and year out one of the city’s biggest draws, reflects that of many in the hospitality industry and a continuation of much of the past year.

More visitors might come to Las Vegas than in the bleak 2009 but with an eye toward value rather than splurging.

“Things are definitely better than last year, but that’s not saying much,” said Larry O’Brien, the master sommelier at liquor distributor Wirtz Beverage Nevada. “We are slowly climbing back out of a deep hole.”

The wine sales he oversees reflect a pattern of visitors demanding “fall-back brands that offer value and comfort” rather than prestige.

“The days of ‘I’ve got $200, so what can I spend it on that’s new and exciting’ are over,” he said.

At the hotels, few properties posted vacancies on their websites for Friday night alone, with more that require a two-night purchase. Surveys have shown rates about the same as last year, even though New Year’s Eve falls on a Friday instead of midweek. Normally, rates rise on any weekend, so the holiday premium has been reduced compared with last year, when New Year’s Eve fell on a Thursday.

“We are seeing a steady booking pace,” said MGM spokeswoman Yvette Monet, putting the Strip properties on a pace to be at or near capacity.

A check of the MGM reservation site showed Aria and Circus Circus having rooms for Friday alone, with MGM Grand, the Mirage and Mandalay Bay among those selling two-night packages.

For Friday night, Caesars Entertainment listed availability at the Flamingo, Harrah’s and Caesars Palace.

On Dec. 7, the company’s website showed a sellout at Caesars, while the Flamingo has dropped $20 to $255 since then, and Harrah’s has remained unchanged.

“Demand is strong for New Year’s Eve, and we look forward to entertaining more guests than last year,” Harrah’s spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson said.

But not everyone is impressed with the numbers.

“In general, I’m a little surprised there are vacancies like this within the heart of the Strip with only a couple of days to go,” said Michael Zaletel, owner of the i4vegas.com booking site. “So that kind of tells you that New Year’s Eve is not shaping up as the hotels had hoped.”

As recently as this week, i4vegas.com had large numbers of customers shopping for a Friday arrival.

With more than half of its passengers coming from outside the U.S., often on once-in-a-lifetime trips to Las Vegas, Maverick Aviation Group has sold out its Grand Canyon tours.

Even though the company made adjustments during the year to stimulate demand for helicopter or airplane flights, said marketing director Bryan Kroten, Maverick did not need promotions to fill seats during the week-and-a-half surrounding Christmas and New Year’s.

“We wish there could be a lot more New Year’s Eves,” he said.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at toreiley@review
journal.com or 702-387-5290.