The Business of Las Vegas

When it comes to Las Vegas, most visitors just see the neon lights, endless rows of slot machines, glamorous shows and lavish buffets, but what many people don’t notice are the millions of dollars spent to market Las Vegas to the LGBT community.

As a result of the efforts by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, coupled with the dollars spent by casino operators such as MGM Mirage, Caesar’s Entertainment, Wynn Resorts and others, Sin City has become one of the Top 10 tourist destinations among the LGBT community.

Some companies have embraced LGBT marketing faster than others.  MGM Mirage property The Luxor was the first to institute a Sunday pool party, “Temptation Sundays”, geared to gay tourists and locals alike.  Others such as Planet Hollywood incorporated gay nightlife venues into the property.  Krave Las Vegas was the first gay owned and operated nightclub on the Strip.

The buying power of LGBT individuals is expected to reach $2 trillion next year and the resorts surely have taken notice.  According to San Francisco- based Community Marketing, LGBT travelers will spend a combined $65 billion in 2012 alone.

“The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) has taken a leadership role in the tourism industry to better promote its unique product to the LGBT tourism market,” states Dawn Christensen, director of communications for the organization.  “Las Vegas markets the destination specifically to the LGBT community through advertising, our website and special events. The organization also has a designated diversity marketing representative who concentrates on reaching the LGBT visitor.”

Recently, Las Vegas welcomed the first annual Gay Days to the Tropicana, which was planned in conjunction with the city’s pride festival.  In addition, the LVCVA is a sponsor of the 2nd International Expo & Business LGBT, the leading marketing event in Latin America designed to attract tourism from the LGBT market. “We were also the first destination partner of the largest pride celebration this summer called WorldPride, which took place in London, England,” Christensen states.

The LVCVA spends thousands of dollars annually advertising the destination in multiple national gay media outlets including Curve, Instinct, Out, Passport, EDGE, Metrosource and Logo.

In May 2012, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) honored the LVCVA with its Vanguard Award for making a difference in promoting equal rights for LGBT individuals. Christensen tells me the organization has been “an innovative and creative force in LGBT marketing.”

Caesar’s Entertainment has been at the forefront of LGBT marketing for many years. As a whole, the corporation has initiated outreach programs at many of their properties throughout the country.  This year, Caesars hosted such events as Dinah Shore Vegas and will host the Out Music Awards in December.

“We aren’t just looking to have events for LGBT people to attend. We really want to make sure that there is ongoing excitement and entertainment for the community,” states Richard Brower, director of LGBT Marketing.  “Caesars Entertainment is looking at implementing LGBT specific gaming events, dining and shopping specials, and more ongoing reasons to come out and enjoy a Caesars property.”

The company tracks each LGBT guest when people swipe their cards or sign up at LGBT events such as Vegas pride.  “We tag them in our LGBT database and can keep track of them but are looking to expand this program and provide LGBT email offers and other incentives so we can really talk to the community,” Brower states.

December is set to be a big month for the company.  Shania Twain will begin her much anticipated residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.  The venue has hosted an array of musical icons from Celine Dion and Cher to Bette Midler and Elton John.  The Imperial Palace, which is owned by Caesars, is home to Frank Marino’s Divas Las Vegas, another favorite show amongst gay travelers.

Wynn Las Vegas and its adjacent property Encore have engaged in LGBT marketing for the past few years, even creating a separate landing page and Pride Concierge.  The company boasts “a welcome, safe and sensitive atmosphere and a commitment to the LGBT community.”

To encourage diversity and ensure a work environment that prioritizes the best interests of all employees, Wynn Resorts is an equal opportunity employer and was one of the first hotel and casino companies in Las Vegas to offer same sex, domestic partner benefits.

“Our commitment to our LGBT employees also includes the promise of a work environment where everyone is treated equally, with dignity and respect,” states a Wynn representative.

Las Vegas is a city of excess and innovation and this is no different in the LGBT community.  Just in time for New Year’s Eve, Krave Massive, a new 84,000 square-foot nightclub will open its doors downtown.  Owner Kelly Murphy speaks about the ambitious project.  “I wanted to do something different in gay nightlife and needed a significantly large venue. Rents are much less in downtown and not controlled by casino properties, which bring many restrictions.”

Kelly emphasizes the current resurgence downtown. “The area has become very hip and trendy. A lot of businesses are investing in downtown with great ideas, including I just couldn't resist the challenge of converting a 14-screen theater into the world's largest gay club.”

Krave Massive will open in phases beginning in mid-December. The first consisting of the Top 40/Techno Dance room, Back of House, Martini Bar and Show Theater.  Kelly anticipates the Hip-Hop Dance room to open by New Year's Eve. The balance of the dance rooms, retail store and member room will open early next year, which is when the official grand opening will take place.  “We hope to achieve the Guinness Book of World Records for largest nightclub, gay or straight, beating out Privilege in Ibiza,” states Murphy.

Future plans include a rooftop swimming pool with 14 cabanas and the possibility of connecting the adjacent Drink & Drag Bowling & Billiards room to Krave Massive.

“Downtown is a short distance from the strip and I believe that gay men are willing to take the trip if it means they can come to The World’s Largest Gay Club and indulge all of their senses in the best possible way.”

It will be interesting to see how these various LGBT initiatives and projects evolve over the next few months as Las Vegas makes an attempt to become the #1 gay destination in the country. Joey Amato

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