Las Vegas is a barometer for the health of the global hospitality industry; with well over 150,000 rooms available every night in some truly gargantuan properties, it crushes most competitors. Not even a pandemic can halt this city’s growth apparently either.
While Las Vegas has numerous casino hotels with room counts in the thousands, it doesn’t hold the title of having the world’s largest hotel. That honor goes to the First World Hotel & Plaza in Malaysia with some 7,351 rooms. The relevance here is that that property’s owners – Genting Group – are behind the launch of Resort World Las Vegas (RWLV), the latest behemoth on the north end of The Strip.
With 3,506 rooms, RWLV is firmly within the largest ten hotels in the city, with a 117,0000-square-foot casino, a 250,000-square-foot convention space, a 5,000-capacity theatre, over 40 restaurants and bars and numerous retail outlets. Construction of this magnitude did not go unnoticed, as this was the first major new build since the completion of City Center in 2009 and the Cosmopolitan in 2010.
Spending almost a week on premise, we had an opportunity to really dig into all three incumbent brands – Las Vegas Hilton, Conrad Las Vegas and Crockfords Las Vegas, all within the RWLV banner – trying numerous restaurants, losing a modest sum at the gaming tables, and culminating this experience by interviewing Scott Sibella, RWLV’s president. A former MGM executive, Scott is no stranger to the world of luxury and the perfect choice to lead this $4.3 billion development.
How are you differentiating three Hilton brands, all under one roof?
Worldwide, the Hilton brand name is considered as a universal standard of quality, with almost a million hotel rooms in some 6,500 locations. We took two Hilton brands (Hilton and Conrad) and added Crockfords, a brand that Genting Group has utilized in the luxury segment overseas. With three brands, we can create a good-better-best pricing strategy, differentiating by room size, amenities, sense of arrival and service levels.
Intentionally, our Hilton product is the largest with 1,774 rooms. This is our convention product. Conrad (1,496 rooms) product takes the middle tier, with larger rooms, better amenities, and higher service. Crockfords is truly a hotel within a hotel – an incredible lobby for an impressive sense of arrival, fewer rooms (only 236) and luxury-class services. Moreover, we have designed Crockfords so that the lobby immediately accesses its own gaming area to create, in effect, a casino within a casino.
So, three separate staff for each property?
While we are working with separate teams for each property, the service standards are that of RWLV. Thus, if we had to, we could interchange staff from one property to another. That is not our intention of course. The result is that the service level in our Hilton property is probably better than what you would experience in another Hilton.
What impact has the current labor shortage had on your launch plans and their execution?
The labor crunch was not really a factor for us. As the new kid on the block, we received well over 130,000 applications for roughly 6,000 positions, with many applicants out of state. So, we did not have to compromise, and we focused our efforts on finding those individuals who displayed a true service orientation. The proof is that we have experienced very little turn over.
One of the advantages that we have is that our executives work in this resort, not in a separate office or a remote location. I believe that the true success of any guest-oriented enterprise comes from the employees. We do not act as a big company; we talk to our team continuously. We want feedback. Think of RWLV as a throwback to ‘Old Vegas’ before the large corporations arrived, merged and centralized.
What is your forecast for the restoration of convention business?
My crystal ball is as good as any. CES2022 will be a key indicator for the city. Of course, we are optimistic, but there are just too many factors that are simply out of anyone’s control. The rescinding of the face mask mandate could open the corporate floodgates. We will be ready, and we look forward to those days.
What is your forecast for the return of the Asian-originating business?
Many who first viewed our property naively thought that we were merely catering to the Asian market. And it is true that our parent company’s (Genting Group) roots are in Asia, where the brand is very well-known and has a loyal following. Therefore, it is safe to say that once travel opens to Asia, we will hit it out of the park. Again, from a timing standpoint, I would like to think that the upcoming Lunar New Year (February 1, 2022) will see open sky’s again, but this is not something that we can control. It’s the Year of the Tiger, so this is a good omen.
Do you see F&B as a more critical aspect to the Las Vegas resort experience than gaming?
Gaming is part of the culture of Las Vegas; it is how the city was built. RWLV has gaming but has also some of the most diverse restaurant offerings on The Strip. Our Famous Foods Street Eats section reinvents informal dining. First, it is completely cashless. Second, ordering is done through kiosks or apps. Third, diners do not have to select from just one but can select from multiple outlets simultaneously. And fourth, those dining can eat in Famous Foods or have their meals delivered via our Grubhub partnership anywhere on property.
Besides this, our casual and fine dining restaurants cover a wide range of specialties with a greater range of Asian-oriented foods than anywhere else on The Strip. Many of our restaurants are located with outdoor dining options as well. We want to be known as the destination for entertainment, be it a show, gaming, or fine dining. We expect about three-quarters of our revenue to be derived from non-gaming options.
What’s next for RWLV?
First, we have 88 acres and we’ve only built on about two-thirds of that. Second, we are in the process of building a tunnel that will connect us with the Las Vegas Convention Center. This will make us the first property on The Strip with direct access, further enhancing our Hilton product. Third, we’re bullish on the northern end of The Strip as where the action is heading. With the Fontainebleau planning to open north of us, and more development coming in the area, the decision to locate here is perfect. Longer term, as we judiciously plan the use of our space – and with the addition of further hotel partners – we could see RWLV grow to an 8,000 or 10,000 guestroom resort. In effect, we will be a city within a city.