Las Vegas Sun

October 2, 2014

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ASK MR. SUN:

What happened to the theme in Vegas’ theme resorts?

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Mr. Sun, I just visited Las Vegas and stayed at the Luxor. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was that the Egyptian theme was gone and was replaced with modern decor. The same thing is happening with places such as Treasure Island, Monte Carlo, Excalibur, Mirage and, of course, the Luxor. The question is why.

Las Vegas’ shift away from themed resorts reflects a couple of trends.

The city had — at least until the downturn — succeeded in luring an increasingly upscale traveler. Attracting wealthier visitors made sense from a business perspective — the bubbling world economy minted a lot of millionaires over the past 15 years.

These tourists weren’t the type to stand in slack-jawed awe at some Las Vegas imitation. They had probably visited Egypt, Paris and Venice and didn’t need a foam-and-stucco stand-in. They were also more interested in world-class dining than cheap buffets and in high-end retail over T-shirt shops.

Casino operators simultaneously became less preoccupied with luring vacationing families to Las Vegas.

This trend of catering to the worldly traveler has echoed up and down the Strip over the past decade.

The Luxor opened in 1993, in the heyday of the themed resort. Inside its 30-story black-glass pyramid were talking mechanical camels, statues of pharaohs, a faux Nile River and so on.

By the early 2000s, Luxor President and Chief Operating Officer Felix Rappaport, who helped oversee the property’s recent makeover, said it was obvious “the competition has just moved by it. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that it needed to be freshened up.”

This trend will reach a milestone with the opening this year of MGM Mirage’s CityCenter project with its sleek designs executed by renowned architects.

Not everyone in the business is convinced it’s the right direction for resorts or the city.

Architect Joel Bergman, best known for his work on Caesars Palace, the Mirage and Treasure Island, has criticized CityCenter.

“People come to Las Vegas to be entertained, not educated,” he told the Sun last year. “They don’t want to look at buildings like they’re museum pieces.”

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