This is an archived blog from when I ran Conscious Public Relations Inc. from 2008-2018. Excuse the potential outdated-ness!
Last week I came back from my 4th trip to Las Vegas, 3rd if you don’t count when I went as a child. And I realized that Vegas is almost not a real city. Most of the action happens on the Las Vegas Boulevard strip, where most businesses are consumer-based (hotels, shops, nightclubs, restaurants, sex trade, and transportation). Nothing seems to close, and I have no idea where city hall would be. My aunt used to live off the strip, and in her area I can only remember seeing a lot of desert, heat waves, and roads leading to and from the strip.
So if everything happens within a few massive city blocks, why is Las Vegas one of the most visited cities in the world? Well, it’s how they run the place like a well-oiled machine. You will never find nothing to do there, and when things go wrong, we don’t see them, or are just too inebriated to notice.
1) Fulfill the basic demand.
On the Vegas strip, you won’t see one house. It’s all hotels, which means it’s all visitors. I was told by my shuttle driver that the biggest hotel in Vegas, Caesar’s Palace, held 5000 rooms. And they have valet parking just for their shops. Vegas is always building more to fulfill visitor demand. On the blocks with the most traffic, there are people handing out flyers advertising women to spend your night with. People take them, and after realizing they won’t be calling that 702 number, just throw them on the ground. But the sex industry in Vegas is huge – it drives their economy. So even despite the wasted paper and printing, day after day, you’ll see the same men and women flicking the flyers at your face (even if you are walking with your significant other) with big-bosomed Kelly on the front.
But you probably already knew all this.
In July, the weather was in the 40 degrees Celsius range (110+ F). 42 when we arrived at night, and up to 49 during the day. And what do people want when they’re sweating out their morning milk (or alcohol) as they walk the strip? Water.
At every walkway, corner, and shady sidewalk block there were men and women selling bottled water for $1 from portable coolers. And you can bet that we bought. Leo probably spent about $100 on water alone on our trip. One bottle went a long way for me, but he needed about 5 a day.
I’m not saying that in Vancouver it’s difficult to fulfill your basic needs, but in my city do often find myself wondering where I can get that cheap red belt without driving to and walking hours around a shopping mall. (Actually, I ended up getting the red belt in Vegas.) I wonder how many businesses would open and thrive if they only thought of a basic service that Vancouver could use.
2) Adjust your hours accordingly.
They call Vegas the city that never sleeps. And it’s true. Shops might close at night, but a lot of restaurants, clubs and bars are open until the wee hours of the morning. And it’s not because people love working the graveyard shift, but because business owners realized they could make money 24/7.
In Vancouver, I find a lot of the mom & pop shops close at the most important hours of the day when I need that quick photocopy or to pick up an order. And most local nightclubs here aren’t open past 3 am, which makes the crowds spill out onto the street all at once for one big drunken fight. I think that if there were more after hours spots open – especially restaurants – it would both help businesses and satisfy the night owls’ need to party longer.
Our city does have some 24 hour joints, but I wonder how clean they are. Most of the malls I know still close at 6 pm on weekdays. Some of the best restaurants I know of open just before lunch and then go til late with a DJ, and are still able to maintain a great look. But we could seriously hire more staff and keep businesses open longer if we tried.
3) Location, location, location, then market market market.
This is a weird one, because we’re talking about a city with one main street. So anything that gets built on the strip you can consider pretty successful. But everyone knows that most of the action is in the centre, between Sands and Tropicana Avenues. All the stuff here, you don’t even have to market because the traffic is there anyway.
It’s the other stuff off-strip – the Hooters Casino Hotel, the gun range, the naked bowling alley that’s rumoured to be at the Rio – that needs to be, and is, marketed. For this stuff, there are ads everywhere, from billboards to taxi lights to hotel TV commercials. And the thing is, it all works. No show gets cancelled because there’s a market for everything and everyone. And the stuff that does get old gets upgraded, like the free Mirago volcano show and the Sirens of TI show at Treasure Island (not that I agree with the cheesy dance upgrade!). Things that do not work in Vegas are gone before you notice it was there in the first place. Apparently the Jabbawockees show was so good, they brought it back for another week this month, and I just missed it!
In Vancouver there are so many businesses that come and go. The ones on Robson and in Yaletown and other hubs stay forever if they do their marketing right, and the rest leave. The ones that aren’t on main streets have to do more work, but in my hood like Kingsway, you can have a dozen Chinese restaurants and they will all stay open because there is a market for it and they know how to reach it. So in Vancouver where things happen in many areas of the city, you’ve gotta find the ideal location for you, then market it right.
4) Find solutions to the bad stuff.
On top of Vegas never sleeping, you never see any of the bad stuff that’s so visible amongst the mountains and trees of “beautiful BC.” Garbage cans rarely overflow, and I used to wonder where I’d put all my empty water bottles once I was done with them. I learned from a little symbol on a trash bin that had a CODE GREEN logo on it (and some fine print), meant that recyclables would be separated at the disposal centre later. That made me feel much better about throwing away my bottles.
There are also no homeless people in Vegas. If there were, you couldn’t tell because everyone is drunk during the day anyway. The unemployment rate is 14.5% (much higher than what it is in BC), but you can’t tell because you can’t see any slums. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a street off-strip where there were homeless people hanging out, but it doesn’t really matter anyway because the general visiting public will never know about it.
As for other unsightly things, well, there was the time during the recession last year when hotels were only half built. But I know that people were still visiting, so it’s obvious that the city was able to pick up ites development momentum again. The Trump Hotel is finished, so that’s always a good sign of growing commercial real estate.
5) Customer experience trumps all.
The most surprising thing I discovered in Vegas that I didn’t in previous trips is that customer service – but even more – EXPERIENCE – trumps all. If you read some of my restaurant reviews on my personal blog, you’ll read that at two of the fine restaurants I dined at had two servers per table – one to take orders and check in, and one to serve the food and refill drinks. At both restaurants, the server also refolded Leo’s napkin from his chair and put it back on the table.
Even if the food wasn’t outstanding, Leo and I were both wowed by the service, and not just from the restaurants: on our shuttle ride from the airport, each day we returned to our hotel room, the hotel security guards, the servers in the casino… you name it, there was no place I can remember where we received bad service. I even received a room change and discount 3 years ago when I got a late-night creepy phone call and knock on the door at Circus Circus (do NOT trust a clown-themed hotel!).
In Vancouver I see so many frustrated customers (regardless of whether or not the business was at fault) and businesses who fail to create great experiences. It’s no wonder people love getting married in Vegas – it may not have mountains nor Canadians, but damn, I’d take their service staff any day.