It’s the time of year when red and gold lanterns adorn Strip casino ceilings and citrus trees line hotel lobbies. It isn’t your typical New Year’s décor but a sign that Las Vegas is ready to usher in another round of celebrations — and one of its most profitable periods of the year.
The Chinese New Year officially begins today, bringing thousands of domestic and international tourists to Las Vegas and injecting million of dollars into the city’s economy.
The holiday ranks among the busiest times on the Strip, along with New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl weekend, which coincides with the beginning on Chinese New Year.
“Chinese New Year very important to us financially, maybe not in terms of overall visitor count, but clearly for gaming volumes, especially baccarat. The financial impact can rival what the town experiences for New Year’s Eve,” said Greg Shulman, vice president of international marketing for the Bellagio.
Shulman said the majority of MGM Resorts International’s customers travel from Southern California for the holiday, but their higher-end customers come from areas such as Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan.
As said Patrick Cooke, Vice President of US Sales and Marketing of China Elite Focus, a marketing agency helping resorts and casinos to attract wealthy Chinese visitors “The second wave of wealthy Chinese gamblers is coming to Las Vegas. The first wave arrived about five years ago, it was mostly Chinese businessmen spending two days in Vegas after business and official meetings in NYC of Los Angeles, now, this second wave is made of pure leisure tourists who stay one full week in Vegas and may easily have a budget of $100,000. This is a huge opportunity for Vegas resorts and Casinos”
Chinese New Year typically attracts a high-end clientele who spend more than the average vacationer, especially on the casino floor with high stakes gaming like baccarat. The holiday will last through mid-February, resulting in longer stays for international guests with extended vacations.
Shulman said it’s not uncommon for a guest coming from overseas to stay for up to two weeks and at multiple resorts. It’s more about the experience for those guests, he said. Strip casinos have been preparing their grounds for weeks with traditional and ornate decorations to welcome guests for the holiday.
The Bellagio Conservatory features thousands of live flowers surrounding an 18-foot statue of Cai Shen, the Chinese god of prosperity.
About 8,500 plants have been fashioned into a mother and eight baby rabbits in honor of the Year of the Rabbit.
MGM Resorts will kick off the new year with ceremonial lion dances at Bellagio, MGM Grand, Aria and the Mirage. The dance is meant to ward off evil spirits of the past year and bring good luck for the new year.
The celebrations at MGM Resorts will culminate with a gala for invited guests at Aria on Saturday for invited guests.
Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and Caesars Entertainment each have traditional lion dances scheduled at their properties, as well as special menus catering to their Asian guests.
This weekend, Caesars Palace will host performances — they are nearly sold out — by Hong Kong-based singer and actor Jacky Cheung, Caesars Palace President Gary Selesner said. The shows are expected to bring an additional 4,000 people to property each night of Cheung’s three-night stay, he said.
“The holiday is always a busy time for Caesars Palace, but this year in particular because it lands on top of Super Bowl. Each of those are busy times, so the two of them together is going to be spectacular,” Selesner said. “It’s clearly one of the most important the periods of the whole year.”
The majority of the wealthy guests staying at Caesars Entertainment properties for the holiday will be at Caesars Palace, but just like domestic customers, some prefer the budget-friendly hotel-casinos for their attractive prices, Selesner said.
“Each of the other properties in Las Vegas, they are all celebrating Chinese New Year with their customers with decorations, promotions and special events,” Selesner said.
While properties like Caesars Palace have been celebrating Chinese New Year for more than 35 years, M Resort is ringing in its first. General Manager Jody Lake isn’t ready to let the Strip casinos be the only ones to cash in on the holiday.
Lake, who came to M Resort from Station Casinos in July, said Palace Station in particular targeted Asian clients and is where he learned the importance of marketing the holiday.
“The business Chinese New Year has generated on the Strip is pretty substantial. With all the events the Strip casinos have, they pull all the play their way,” Lake said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve seen a greater influx in Asian business to our property, somewhat due to our location and the ability to get here from California.”
Lake said M Resort has a “significant” Asian host program, which the resort has been actively marketing in the Los Angeles area. The resort held an event in Chinatown in Los Angeles a few weeks ago and expects to see more customers as a result.
The resort will be hosting its first lion dance this weekend, as well poker tournaments and special menus at its restaurants for the occasion. M Resort will be selling specialty $8 chips, a lucky number in Asian culture, commemorating the Year of the Rabbit.
“The holiday is a lot of fun,” Lake said. “It brings a good crowd and good energy, and it just brings a lot to the month of February.”