by Maya Dollarhide | November 17, 2016

East Heads West
"We have been really successful in getting more flights into the city and providing fliers with point-to-point destination services," says Meyer. "We know it is important to business customers to have flexibility when it comes to air travel, and we want to give consumers increased service directly to Las Vegas."

Lucky Dragon Casino & Hotel

The big win for international travelers headed to Las Vegas comes out of the Far East. "China is a huge international participant in visits to trade shows," shares Meyer. "To accommodate these travelers we now have nonstop service from Beijing, the capital of China, to Las Vegas." Offered by Hainan Airlines, it is the first-ever nonstop flight between Mainland China and Las Vegas. Service begins in early December and will initially operate three days a week. It comes at a perfect time: Chinese tourists are one of the fastest-growing and largest-spending groups of international visitors to Las Vegas.

The city, explains Meyer, has established itself as a major draw for Chinese visitors traveling to the U.S. "We are extremely proud to welcome Hainan Airlines to Las Vegas with their convenient, premium-service for Chinese visitors," says Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). "China is an area where we have seen steady growth in visitation, and we will continue to focus on experiences and amenities that cater to our Chinese guests. With these first-ever flights from China to Las Vegas, we are anticipating more than $33.5 million in annual economic impact."

The same week that the Beijing planes hit the tarmac in Nevada, the Lucky Dragon Las Vegas is slated to open. A niche-market hotel and casino, it is a property built to cater specifically to Chinese and Chinese-American visitors. Signs will be in Chinese first, then English, and the staff will speak Cantonese, Mandarin, or other Chinese dialects. The 203-room Asia-inspired Lucky Dragon will offer 27,500 feet of casino space, including a VIP game room, a luxury spa complete with Chinese reflexology and acupuncture treatments, authentic Chinese cuisine, and a Feng Shui-designed outdoor/indoor tea garden complete with its own tea sommelier.

Today's Las Vegas may pay homage to its neon and glitter roots, but it is distinctly focused on its future. Gaming remains a central part of its landscape, but the city is far more than craps and slot machines. An exotic racing experience is available at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway where participants can pick from a fleet of racing vehicles including Lamborghini, Porsche, and Aston Martin.

Another popular sport in Vegas is golf. Groups can skip the heat on the outdoor courses and head inside MGM Grand's Topgolf entertainment center, which opened in May. Topgolf has 108 climate-controlled hitting bays, microchipped balls equipped to track shots and award points, two luxurious pools, a concert venue, VIP suites, five bars, plus special-event spaces. The facility has four levels and 105,000 square feet of space. Groups can rent out their own hitting bay and other facilities. Unique venues focused on interactive entertainment for visitors appear to be on trend in Las Vegas.

Further out in the future are plans by real-estate mogul Steve Wynn to replace his golf course at the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore with Paradise Park, a lakefront resort, complete with a 38-acre lake and a 1,000-room hotel, and featuring outdoor elements like a boardwalk, sandy lakefront beach, zip-line attractions, beach activities like water skiing, nightly firework celebrations, and more. To date, the project has not received board approval, but it has been reported that the goal is to open it in 2020.

"Vegas is synonymous with constant innovation," says Meyer, who has lived for over 20 years in the Las Vegas area. "There's always something new and exciting to experience."