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Gaming Guru

Chris Jones
 

Vegas.com Desk Points Fliers to LV

10 August 2006

LAS VEGAS -- Travelers flying from one busy Southern California airport can now get a head start on their Las Vegas vacation moments before they leave the Golden State.

And soon travelers at more than a dozen other U.S. airports will get the chance to do likewise.

Vegas.com, a Henderson-based travel planning and reservation provider, today opened its first airport-based concierge desk at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, Calif.

Vegas.com's fully staffed desk, located beneath a massive marquee travelers pass on the way from the security checkpoint to the gates, lets patrons complete many last-minute details of their Southern Nevada getaways.

Over the next 18 to 24 months, similar desks will debut at 16 or more airports nationwide.

"We always want to meet the customers where they are," said Howard Lefkowitz, Vegas.com's president and chief executive officer. "We feel that once they've gone past security, they believe in their own minds that their vacations have started and they're starting to think about what they're going to do when they get" to Southern Nevada.

Although just 4 percent of last year's 38.6 million Las Vegas visitors booked hotel accommodations the day they arrived, Vegas.com's data show that many travelers wait until they're here before making restaurant reservations, booking golf tee times or purchasing VIP passes to bypass lines at popular Strip nightclubs.

Sensing a captive audience that typically has time to kill, Lefkowitz is confident some of those reservations will now take place at the airport -- and Vegas.com will be there to collect a sales percentage.

"To see this giant Vegas thing in the middle of this dull airport environment, it's pretty cool," he said. "This is just another extension of Las Vegas into the customer's path."

Travelers with laptop computers can still make reservations online using a wireless Internet connection. But Burbank's airport charges $10 to go online, so Vegas.com's desk could attract those unwilling to pay the connection charge.

St. Charles, Ill.-based retail consultants Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender each called the strategy brilliant.

The desk's placement and imagery should make people think about Las Vegas even if they're headed elsewhere, Kizer said. On-site staffing is another plus, he added, because people enjoy believing that they've got information their friends and family might not possess.

"People will like to brag about the fact that they didn't have to stand in line at the Bellagio buffet, for example, because they had a pass. That kiosk almost becomes an 'inside tip,'" Kizer said. "People will say, 'From now on, when we go to Vegas, we'll get to the airport 45 minutes earlier than we normally would so we can take care of business.'"

The desk will also build brand loyalty, Bender said.

"It will draw customers, when they're not at the airport, to (Vegas.com's) Web site," she said.

Trained employees will staff the desk daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The number of workers on-site will vary so that more are on hand when outbound traffic is most busy.

Depending on the day of the week, McCarran International Airport hosts 13 to 14 daily flights from Burbank. Nearly all are operated by Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, whose passengers often favor smaller airports with easier access than major hubs such as Los Angeles International Airport.

"Lots and lots of traffic to our city" comes through Burbank, Lefkowitz said. He wouldn't disclose how much the desk cost beyond joking that, "Nothing is cheap in an airport."

Vegas.com has deals with 16 airports so far, Lefkowitz said, including Los Angeles International. The company plans to tune its airport business model in Burbank before it opens more locations several months from now.

Greenspun Media Group owns Vegas.com. The 450-employee company has relationships with nearly 80 local hotels, 160 shows, 30 nightclubs and 24 tour companies.