richard n. velotta:
The biggest stories of 2013
Water parks, observation wheels, train tracks, tourists and a stadium will be big
It’s a clean slate.
After a four-day New Year’s weekend and welcoming more than 150,000 International Consumer Electronics Show guests, we now have 358 days ahead of us in 2013 for tourism happenings.
That means it’s time to dust off the old crystal ball to predict the top tourism business stories of the year:
Strip resurgence. It has been more than two years since we’ve had a bona fide Las Vegas Strip resort opening, and while there won’t be any in 2013, we will see Caesars Entertainment’s Project Linq draw curious tourists to the city toward the end of the year.
There won’t be explosive visitation growth as a result, but the development likely will be warmly received.
The High Roller observation wheel will be panned by critics, but the attraction will excite visitors looking for something new to try and new views of the Strip.
Meanwhile, downtown will continue to experience the glow of the Tony Hsieh effect, attracting new residents, businesses and tourists who will want to check out refurbished casinos and SlotZilla, the 112-foot zip line tower coming this year.
Forty million tourists. After coming close in 2012 — although we won’t know the final visitor count for a couple of weeks — Las Vegas finally will hit the elusive 40 million-visitor plateau in 2013.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will roll out the red carpet for two major tourism builders: the U.S. Travel Association’s International Pow Wow in June and the World Route Development Forum in October.
Las Vegas will lead an effort to rebrand the Travel Association’s event to a more politically correct IPW, and the Routes event will lead to the announcement of at least one new major international flight to Las Vegas from Asia or South America by the end of the year.
XpressWest groundbreaking. A logjam at the Federal Railway Administration finally will be broken and XpressWest will get the loan it needs to build its 185-mile high-speed rail project between Las Vegas and Victorville, Calif.
The loan won’t be as large as the company wanted, but it will be enough to attract investment from other sources to begin work on the project. Before 2014 arrives, there will be a groundbreaking involving a golden spike.
Meanwhile, Las Vegas Railway Express, operator of the X Train party train, will stay on track and transport its first revenue passengers early next year.
A train of a different sort, the Las Vegas Monorail, will continue to tread water in 2013 with no new movement toward expanding the line to McCarran International Airport.
UNLV stadium advances. The city’s tourism interests, recognizing an opportunity to capitalize on a large new stadium venue for special events, will get behind the UNLV Now stadium proposal and push for approvals to begin construction on the project late next year.
Efforts to build arenas on the Strip and downtown will hit roadblocks that prevent those projects from moving ahead.
Two water park successes. Both the Wet ’n’ Wild Water Park in Summerlin and Cowabunga Bay Las Vegas in Henderson won’t open by Memorial Day as planned, but when they do, they’ll have overwhelming success.
Locals will take sides on which park is better, and tourists will find their way to both facilities.