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Rod Smith
 

Wynn Las Vegas: Everybody Form a Line

10 January 2005

With guests lining up across the country for the opening of Wynn Las Vegas, developer Steve Wynn is proving an old adage true: Nothing succeeds like success.

Already, Wynn Las Vegas' group and convention reservations, the earliest barometer of its likely success or failure, are running ahead of schedule and promise to pass 100 percent occupancy in the first full year of operation, said Chris Flatt, Wynn's vice president of hotel sales and marketing.

The first group business for the $2.5 billion, 2,800-room megaresort will come from the 40 or 50 members of the Shawnee Country Club in Shawnee, Okla. They check in with their wives May 1, just days after the April 28 grand opening.

Wynn, the chairman of Wynn Resorts Ltd., can go on for hours explaining the concepts behind his new hotel, but incoming guests can be much more to the point.

Shawnee Country Club owner Dan Overland, who is also senior vice president of MBO Corp., said he was in Las Vegas in 1998 for the opening of Bellagio and wanted to come back because of Wynn's demonstrated commitment to opening top-of-the-line resorts.

"Mr. Wynn has a refined concept of quality from Day One. All the bugs are out and he wants the very best in service from the first day," he said.

The second lure for Overland is Wynn's new golf course, the only links on a major hotel-casino property.

"His commitment to golf in Las Vegas is second to none, based on Shadow Creek (which Wynn developed as part of Bellagio)," Overland said. "Knowing he's building that kind of a facility makes it something you can only wish to play once in your lifetime, so we kill two birds with one stone."

Finally, Overland said Wynn's reservation systems and personnel helped clinch his business for the new resort.

"Everyone's read about Wynn Las Vegas, so I went to the Web site to plan our trip. Who would have guessed? I was contacted fast and we were inundated with information. Some of our folks aren't rich and famous, but we've been treated like we hung the moon," he said.

Deutsche Bank analyst Marc Falcone said attention to clientele has been a hallmark of Wynn's successes.

"Steve has always shown an appreciation for what his customers want and that's been a key reason for his success, and it looks to be again," he said.

Wynn and his executives make no secret of the importance of business meetings and conventions to the success of his new hotel-casino.

Wynn wants to encourage Fortune 500 company executives to plan annual meetings and presentations at Wynn Las Vegas. He also hopes investors and business people who are in Las Vegas for expos at the city's two major convention halls will book rooms.

Susquehanna Financial Group gaming analyst Eric Hausler said a new poll of convention planners his group conducted shows 7 percent of all respondents nationwide already have booked a meeting or convention at Wynn Las Vegas, and 40 percent say they are planning to book space there.

"The convention business is the key to filling the building with good-paying customers. The more convention reservations you have, the more you can charge free and independent travelers for the supply of rooms you have left over," he said.

The megaresort will probably get a big boost from another one of its first convention customers, the 2005 Governor's Conference on Tourism, which will be held at there Dec. 12-15.

To help attract upper-crust guests to Wynn Las Vegas, Wynn is building a 200,000-square-foot complex that will include a 50,000-square-foot ballroom and a 25,000-square-foot ballroom.

"This piece of the property was strategic," Wynn said. "You didn't have to build the convention space. It was already here (at existing convention centers, especially the nearby Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo and Convention Center). Our hotel is the natural alternative.

"That's one of the reasons I have the site. It has a guaranteed, built-in midweek demand."

Flatt said a large proportion of the customers Wynn is drawing will be new Las Vegas conventions. She also said 90 percent of these first-time Las Vegas convention attendees have reserved rooms at Wynn Las Vegas.

That's a major contrast with competing hotel-casinos such as The Venetian, which only have enough rooms to accommodate roughly 10 percent of the attendees of their major conventions, and end up filling rooms at competing properties.

Flatt said demand for convention space is so hot at Wynn Las Vegas that she has booked meetings as far out as 2011.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas history department Chairman Hal Rothman said despite the slowdown in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Wynn recognized a trend of skyward interest in Las Vegas as a destination and is capitalizing on it.

"No one anticipates trends like Steve Wynn," Rothman said. "It'd take a operator with some (guts) to challenge him on this territory."

Rothman said that's particularly true because since the first day of planning, Wynn has assembled a team that exceeds the skill level of any previous team in Las Vegas.

Wynn's competitors, however, don't wince from the opening of his newest megaresort.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman, who worked for Wynn for a decade after the opening of The Mirage, said the bottom line will be bringing more visitors to Las Vegas.

"There may be a group who've had a relationship with Wynn who'll go shifting, but, at the end of the day, it's about growing the market," he said. "The (convention business) isn't as sexy to talk about (as gambling and entertainment), but it's one of the fastest-growing and most important segments of the market. It's the reason companies like ours are adding more space."

However, University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor Bill Thompson, who specializes in gaming studies, said Wynn's reputation gives him a base of customers with deep pockets unequaled by any competitor.

"Now, with his new location, he can aim at people at Sands (Expo and Convention Center) and the Las Vegas Convention Center and take advantage of his location, good rooms and the value of his name," he said.

"This is going to prove the value of putting his name on the building when he dropped the name `Le Reve.' He's a wise man for marketing."