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Las Vegas: Reopening Brings Great Mystery

Few moments in time have gripped Southern Nevada with such a dreadful reality as the coronavirus. Few such devastating circumstances have tested its resiliency.

And now, the city is (mostly) open for business.

How tourists and locals respond to the lifting of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s closure orders will determine the town’s bottom line.

More than any dot on a map of the United States, Las Vegas must ascend the steepest and most treacherous of mountains to again reach a summit of financial prosperity. We’re distinctive this way, reliant on tourism as the driving force to economic stability.

Been here before

“You have to remember that before this happened, back in January and February, we had a robust economy and business was booming and credit was available,” said Derek Stevens, owner of D Las Vegas and Golden Gate. “I think things can bounce back pretty quickly.

“We have been through tough times before. The recession in 2008 and 2009 and what happened to the housing market. The time after 9/11 when people were hesitant to fly and the airline industry was impacted, like it is now, which greatly impacts Las Vegas in terms of tourism.

“But we have seen other states with casinos open these last few (weeks) and have been able to sit back and learn from them. I think Las Vegas as a whole is set up to be safe and in good shape when we reopen.”

Small in scope and large in hope, a promotion offered by Stevens this week delivered a glimpse of what might occur if and when Las Vegas goes from heartbreaking darkness to its customary dazzling self.

He offered 1,000 free one-way flights to Las Vegas from 24 U.S. cities and added 1,000 more two hours later. Over 12,000 hopefuls applied.

In the end, folks from 33 cities across five airlines are scheduled to travel here.

Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe the town has to first relive its past in order to rediscover what was a thriving present just months ago.

Maybe, as Stevens surmised, the types of independent travelers who once arrived to lounge acts and charming little main streets will be the same ones who now lead a revitalization.

Maybe a little touch of Old Time Vegas will jump-start things until millions of folks feel safe enough to embrace the Strip for its world-class entertainment and massive conventions.

Trickle becomes stream

The numbers are miserable.

The global travel and tourism market is expected to lose 100 million jobs worldwide in 2020. International visits to the U.S. are estimated to decline by 54 percent. Consumer spending nationally has dropped by nearly 14 percent amid COVID-19. Budgets have been slashed across Nevada like a lumber company might that forest of redwoods.

Professional sports might help some. Las Vegas could be chosen as a hub city should the NHL playoffs occur. The Raiders could reportedly hold training camp at their Henderson facility before an inaugural season in Allegiant Stadium.

But the likelihood of doing all of the above in front of no fans sort of puts a crimp in the whole recover-through-fun-and-games theory.

“If anyone tells you they know what is going to happen, they’re pulling your leg,” said Dr. Robert Parker, professor of sociology at UNLV. “Nobody knows and, depending on what happens with the economy, how people might react in terms of anxiety and depression.

“I think we face a very uncertain future. People are going nuts. They’re confused. They’re suffering trauma from an economy where over 40 million have applied for unemployment. I can only imagine what things might look like at the other end.”

For now, it’s time to focus on beginning again.


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