by Leo Jakobson | January 29, 2015


New in Town
As is often the case in Las Vegas, its new hotels and major "reimagining" renovations have brought some new styles to the Strip, reflecting what is going on in the hospitality industry as a whole. One of those changes is the embrace of Miami's South Beach aesthetic.

The 1,600-room Tropicana was first to do so when it underwent a $200-million renovation and was reflagged as Tropicana Las Vegas -- a DoubleTree by Hilton in late 2013, unveiling a casually elegant South Beach vibe. Work included a redesign of every room and suite as well as the gaming areas, several new restaurants and lounges, and the debut of Glow, a Mandara Spa and fitness center. Meeting space expanded to more than 100,000 square feet. This includes the addition of a new 26,000-square-foot Tropicana Pavilion area, which will offer up to 11 separate breakout rooms, making the pavilion 55,000 square feet.

Then there's the 1,117-suite Delano Las Vegas, an actual South Beach transplant that replaced THEHotel at Mandalay Bay. The Delano features its Miami Beach namesake's minimalist style, use of white, and sheer curtains, all mixed with a desert influence. It is immediately noticeable in the 63-ton local boulder the designers cut in two and used to frame the entrance, as well as the hotel's Colorado River-themed carpeting.

A collaboration with Morgans Hotel Group, Delano Las Vegas has a 14,000-square-foot spa with 13 treatment rooms, as well as 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including 31 meeting rooms and four boardrooms. Its rooftop restaurant and nightclub, miX, will become Rivea at the Delano this year, still under the direction of three-Michelin-star chef Alain Ducasse. The Delano Beach Club pool will open next to the Mandalay Bay Beach.

The collaboration with Morgans Hotel Group is indicative of another hospitality industry trend: the growing power and acceptance of boutique hotels. This can be seen at The Cromwell, Caesars Entertainment's $185-million standalone boutique hotel, which opened last year. With just 188 rooms, it brings a distinctive French flair to the Strip. Parisian loft-style apartments inspire the guest rooms, which feature hardwood floors, vintage furnishings, and steam showers.

One of The Cromwell's best features is nightlife impresario Victor Drai's 65,000-square-foot Drai's Beach Club and Nightclub. The indoor/outdoor venue has huge LED screens and some of the best views of the Strip in town. Then there's GIADA, the first restaurant by Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis. One of the hottest new venues on the Strip, it is already adding a second private dining room due to demand. The property also has a 40,000-square-foot casino, a hotel lobby bar, a lounge, a rooftop pool, and a 24-hour fitness room.

Despite its size, the 1,600-room SLS Las Vegas has the strong, individual style of boutique properties in each of its three very different towers. Starck's $415-million gut renovation of the old Sahara created the all-suite LUX Tower, with rooms featuring a French influence with Starck-designed chandeliers and "peek-a-boo" showers. The World Tower rooms, designed with business travelers in mind, offer state-of-the-art technology as well as a very distinct look. SLS Las Vegas has 30,000 square feet of meeting space, a spa, and a collection of owner sbe's existing restaurant and nightlife brands. They include LiFE, a 20,000-square foot club with a vast LED wall and aerialists performing under its 60-foot ceilings, as well as a direct connection to the Beach LiFE pool; and restaurants by chefs José Andrés and Katsuya Uechi.

Health and wellness are trends that have been seeping into both incentive trips and meetings for several years, but the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino has stepped it up another notch by adding a Stay Well Meetings facility to its 380,000-square-foot MGM Grand Conference Center to complement the 141 very popular Stay Well rooms and suites it built in partnership with Delos Living. Delos works with the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics on developing wellness-minded accommodation features that range from circadian lighting and air purification to hypoallergenic cleaning products and ergonomic furniture, among others, as well as offering meditations guided by its partner, Deepak Chopra.

During a recent trip to Las Vegas, I had a meeting in a Stay Well Meetings boardroom, and the difference was immediately noticeable. The air quality change going into the Stay Well meetings area was striking; one member of our group who'd been having severe allergy issues said they cleared right up as soon as we entered the room. Snacks from the Stay Well menu featured healthy, reasonably sized portions with strong, satisfying flavors. The 22,000-square-foot MGM Grand Stay Well Meetings facilities are just a "beta test," Dominguez adds. "We are having discussions about taking this company-wide to our luxury portfolio."

Outside Las Vegas proper, the Ravella was reflagged as the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa in June 2013. The Mediterranean-influenced property has 349 guest rooms with views of the mountains, lake, and the Florentine Garden and pool. Amenities include a 30,000-square-foot spa with 24 treatment rooms and 92,459 square feet of meeting and event space. Its neighbor in the Lake Las Vegas planned community, the 493-room Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa, offers sweeping lake, desert, and mountain views, as well as the Moroccan-inspired Spa Moulay and 95,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space. Nearby, the Reflection Bay Golf Club reopened on Nov. 1 after a major overhaul overseen by the course's original designer, Jack Nicklaus.

Of course, there's another way to get outside in Las Vegas. Fifteen minutes off the Strip you'll find the JW Marriott Resort & Spa, by the stunningly beautiful Red Rock Canyon. Still close enough to enjoy the city's fine dining, exciting shows, nightlife, and casinos on a nightly basis, the AAA-Four Diamond resort has 548 rooms and 79 suites, as well as 100,000 square feet of meeting space. It just finished a renovation of its Spa Tower and 12,000-square-foot, circular Valencia Ballroom, which has daytime views of the Red Rocks and nighttime views of the Strip. The Palms Tower rooms are scheduled to wrap up renovations next year.

Looking down the road at least a couple of years, the "next big thing" in Las Vegas will likely be the $4-billion Resorts World Las Vegas mega-resort by Malaysian gaming giant Genting Group, best known for its massive Resorts World integrated casino resorts in Malaysia and Singapore. Resorts World Las Vegas promises to remake the North end of the Strip, which has already been reinvigoratd by the SLS. Reports say that the first phase of the Asian-themed complex will encompass a 1,000-room hotel tower (eventually growing to 3,000 rooms); a 100,000-square-foot casino; more than 30 restaurants and bars, and a rooftop nightclub; a 315,000-square-foot Grand Theater with room for 4,200 attendees; an aquarium; a main bar featuring live entertainment; an observation deck with a view down the Strip; a Forbidden City retail village; lush gardens; and a Great Wall passageway connecting the property to the Las Vegas Strip.