Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Steve Hill told the agency’s board that there has been a drop in revenue as a result of coronavirus concerns but that the authority is prepared to mitigate any effects.
Hill says that LVCVA, which markets Las Vegas as a tourism destination, has been involved in conference calls twice a day to discuss the issue and that the organization has “doubled and tripled” cleaning efforts. The authority runs the Las Vegas Convention Center, and some large events have been canceled out of fear the virus will spread.
“What’s in front of us is uncertain, but we know that there is going to be a reduction in our revenue over the next couple of months,” he said at a board meeting on Tuesday. “We are planning for that, we are modeling what that could look like, and we are taking steps now to mitigate the effects of that revenue drop.”
However, Hill expressed confidence that such a drop would not be too damaging, saying LVCVA has the resources to abate such losses.
“It helps that we came into this situation both strongly and well-prepared,” he said. “The city has been having a great year. The first eight months of the year, five of those months set a record for room tax collection in those months, so we’ve come into this situation with a pretty significant budget surplus.”
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, a member of the authority’s board of directors, seemed nonchalant about the threat of the virus, encouraging people to go about business as usual when it comes to travel.
“And, yes, fly,” she said. “This has been going on for years. Any time in the past 50, 60 years of my life that I flew any length of time beyond an hour, I’d end up with a cold or something from the circulating air. And maybe this will help the airlines figure out how to purify their air.”
Goodman instead blamed the media for creating “fear” in the public.
“The media is absolutely destroying us,” she said. “This fear has taken over the world, and if you look and talk to doctors, I have yet to see a doctor who espouses the voice of social media and what the media is doing here.”
The mayor encouraged the LVCVA to not respond to that fear but rather be proactive in its messaging and funding.
“This is Las Vegas, Nevada, and we are the convention and entertainment capital of the world, and we are fine,” she said. “And some of us, and the elderly are part of it, may get this virus but have already had the flu, and we’re still here. Why are we acting so consumed by the fear that’s being perpetrated?”
Board member and Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly had a different attitude as he spoke to the importance of making sure that messaging about the virus reaches all communities, especially those that are generally underserved.
“This is big,” he said. “This is bigger than what we think it is.”
Weekly was complimentary of LVCVA and the efforts they have made in their messaging about the virus and what they are doing to improve safety.
“I appreciate the fact that this board here and all of its partners in the public and private sector have rallied around and have talked and are on the same page,” he said. “I appreciate that this company is doing their part in terms of cleaning its buildings and making sure it’s taking its messaging out to constituents and to our clients.”
He also said that in some underserved communities, efforts are not being made to the same degree to ensure cleanliness and to inform the public about proper health measures that should be taken.
“I want us to be mindful that in some of our communities, the message is not trickling down,” he said.
Meanwhile, casinos were reacting by shutting down buffets, and the head of the American Gaming Association reacted by highlighting part of a U.S. Travel Association letter warning about economic effects of people not taking trips:
“The decision to cancel travel and events has a trickle-down effect that threatens to harm the U.S. economy, from locally owned hotels, restaurants, travel advisors and tour operators to the service and frontline employees who make up the backbone of the travel industry and the American economy.”