Friday, August 7, 2020 / by Ken Couture
With convention and group business in Las Vegas at a standstill because of COVID-19, travel companies have had to come up with creative incentives to spur midweek traffic.
Their latest pitch: if you have to work remotely, why not do it in Las Vegas?
MGM Resorts International announced its new Viva Las Office program Thursday, in which guests can work remotely from the Bellagio or Aria.
Last month, Las Vegas-based airline Allegiant said it would launch a similar program with existing resort partners in which people can fly to Las Vegas, telecommute in their normal workday from a resort and then enjoy the property’s amenities.
“We heard from the major Las Vegas resort operators … that convention business will continue to be virtually nonexistent through at least mid 2021, so it’s important to find other ways to drive midweek visitation,” said Jordan Salmon, principal and chief marketing officer for Calistoga Group and a former MGM executive. “This is an innovative marketing strategy that we’ve recently seen from some other travel destinations like Barbados, and I think it will work well in Las Vegas.”
Adapting to a new environment
MGM’s Viva Las Office packages are geared toward working travelers, with flexible check-in and check-out times and an executive assistant who handles reservations and experiences throughout the stay.
Marketing experts say the deal could be a welcome distraction from the typical remote working conditions many Americans have adapted to with the onset of the pandemic.
It’s been an unwelcome adjustment for many, filled with barking dogs, children running around in the background of Zoom meetings and long hours.
One working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found the average workday has extended nearly 50 minutes since the pandemic and lockdown orders began.
“I believe many consumers will take advantage of a change in scenery if they are comfortable with the safety and cleaning protocols in place,” Salmon said. “Who wouldn’t want to trade in their makeshift work from home setup for a private ‘office’ overlooking the fountains of Bellagio?”
Sonya Grier, a marketing professor at American University’s Kogod School of Business, said remote work offerings at resorts may resonate with people who have “quarantine fatigue,” and are looking to get away from their homes.
“From a marketing perspective, (the resorts) are addressing people’s needs,” she said. “People would like to go away, but they also want to feel safe and that they aren’t putting themselves or their family at risk. … That’s what marketing does — solve problems as they occur and adapt to the changing environment.”
There could be a large pool of customers interested in such an offering. Sixty-two percent of Americans said they had worked remotely during the crisis, according to a Gallup poll conducted between March 30 and April 2.
Salmon said other travel companies may be inspired by MGM and Allegiant’s newest offerings.
“Like much of the marketing we see in Las Vegas, if this strategy is successful in drawing midweek guests, we’ll certainly see it from many more casino resort operators,” he said.
These sort of deals may stick around long after the pandemic ends, according to Jonathan Day, an associate professor of hospitality and tourism management at Purdue University.
“I think we’ll see a range of offers to attract visitors in the midweek period while conditions remain depressed — and perhaps after as well,” he said. “These packages add value and are much better strategy than just competing on price.”
Viva Las Office
The Viva Las Office packages include a discount on activities such as helicopter and Jeep tours, as well as discounted airfare through a hop-on jet service, JSX. Flights are available in private terminals in Seattle, Phoenix and a number of cities in California. There are also seasonal and pop-up destinations, including one in Dallas.
The program requires a minimum three-night stay, and packages start at $100 per night, according to a Thursday news release.
“We understand that working from home every day can become taxing and monotonous, and we are excited to offer a safe and curated experience here at Bellagio and ARIA that combines work and play,” Atif Rafiq, MGM’s president of commercial and growth, said in the release. “These packages are designed to offer the best of both worlds. A safe, spacious work setting while still allowing guests to enjoy the amenities and experiences Las Vegas is known for through a single offering.”
The program offers three tiered packages:
•“The Associate” features a stay in either a Bellagio king room or an Aria deluxe king room and includes a $50 food and beverage credit per night and $75 off round-trip flights through JSX.
•“The Manager” includes $50 in food and beverage credits each night, $100 off round-trip flights with JSX, two VIP pool day passes and poolside massage. Room options include a Bellagio fountain view room or an Aria deluxe Strip view room.
•“The Executive” stay, either in a Bellagio salone suite or an Aria city corner suite, includes a $75 food and beverage credit per night, $125 off round-trip flights with JSX, a full-day cabana rental and poolside massage.
Reservations can be booked online at mgmresorts.com/en/offers/viva-las-office.
Allegiant hasn’t yet announced full details of its packages under its program that is being being pitched as “Fly, stay, work, play.”
The company also said it would book Work From Vegas packages from any of the airline’s nonstop destinations to Las Vegas — and there are 58 cities on that list.
Future efforts will focus on cities with young professional communities, including Oakland, California; Cincinnati; Indianapolis; Rockford, Illinois, near Chicago; and Phoenix.
Shares of MGM Resorts International closed Thursday up 10.34 percent to $18.46.
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