Las Vegas Welcomes Back Surge of Visitors
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Post pandemic tourism numbers exceed expectations as travellers return to "Entertainment Capital" of the world.
By: Lisa Naccarato
Bellagio Resort, Las Vegas (Photo: Eugene Sirianni/CarryOn Travel News)
The bright lights of Las Vegas have always been a beacon for tourists, calling them to Nevada from across the world. Now, more than two years since the start of the global pandemic, the lure of the Vegas lights is stronger than ever.
Years of international travel restrictions, closures and capacity limits created a pent-up demand for travel and Las Vegas is cashing in. The city's tourism numbers for early 2022 have almost matched those from 2019 . "The pandemic was certainly challenging for Las Vegas, but we're heartened to see the destination's recovery happen faster than anyone expected," said Fletch Brunelle, Vice President of Marketing with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
In April, 2022, Las Vegas welcomed 3.4 million visitors, just 4.5% fewer than April 2019. "Weekend occupancy in April exceeded 93 percent," said Brunelle.
Long lines at check-in counters are obvious signs that Las Vegas is one of the most sought-after, post-pandemic destinations.
(Photo: Check-in area of Caesars Palace Resort)
Fuelling the Las Vegas draw are some of the city's hottest restaurants.
Spago by Wolfgang Puck has long been a dining destination of choice for Las Vegas visitors. Located at Bellagio Resort overlooking the famous fountain, guests flock to Spago's stylish, yet relaxed atmosphere for Puck's famous signature dishes, including the smoked salmon pizza. Puck admitted to creating the unusual dough dish in the 80s after his Los Angeles restaurant ran out of brioche buns for its smoked salmon appetizer. 30+ years later, Puck's improvised creation remains one of the most popular menu items. Puck's masterful use of salmon is also highlighted in the buttery consistency of the Miso Salmon entrée. Crispy Wiener Schnitzel, Wagyu Ribeye and Lobster 'fra Diavolo' round out the world class offerings.
Spago is always popular, and reservations are highly coveted, but staff say the restaurant is busier now than pre-pandemic. People are ready to dine out and a visit to Spago (and perhaps the Spiked Lemon dessert with edible gold flakes) is in high demand.
Just next door at Caesars Palace, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen is on fire with reservations. In 2019, a weekday lunch seating would see about 350 guests over the course of a few hours, in June 2022, staff say those numbers soared to 600 lunch guests.
One might think the added traffic and work load would stress the chefs, but this is Hell's Kitchen - they know to prepare each meal as if it's the only one being served. Scallops are seared to perfection, braised short ribs melt in the mouth, Ramsay's signature Beef Wellington tastes like it's been prepared for the Queen herself.
But leave room for dessert, Sticky Toffee Pudding is a spoonful of heaven and Coconut 3-ways will delight the taste buds and the eyes as the dry ice under the half coconut shell "smokes" when served.
For those looking for a family setting with Italian comfort food, Buddy V's is the place to go. Located in the Palazzo shops at the Venetian Resort, guests can sink into a comfy booth and enjoy calmari fritti that taste like it came straight out of nonna's kitchen. Television's Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro has filled the bright space with nods to his childhood and family life in New Jersey.
Buddy's famous lobster tail dessert is at the restaurant, or across the way at the Carlo's Bake Shop location. The line-up outside is a testament to the taste!
Celebrity chef restaurants along the strip aren't the only ones enjoying a post pandemic boon. Inside Ferguson's Downtown in the Fremont East Entertainment District, a new restaurant, less than a year old, is racking up the awards and reservations. Peyote is a boutique eatery serving elevated Mexican cuisine mixing authentic traditions with bold experimentation. Here you can find Veracruz style grilled octopus for dinner or longaniza sausage on mollete (Andalusian flatbread) for brunch in a space that exudes retro desert charm.
Peyote's eclectic patio (photo courtesy Corner Bar Management/Wicked Creative)
"We are able to cater to the Vegas community and the culinary tourists who enjoy veering off the beaten path to experience cities like locals do", said Peyote owner and designer, Ryan Doherty.
With every passing year, Las Vegas strengthens its culinary offerings, but when it comes to pure spectacle, the city is the entertainment capital of the world for a reason. Las Vegas shows are second to none.
Magical illusions have been a long-time Vegas staple. America's Got Talent winner Matt Franco puts a fresh twist on that tradition with his Magic Re-Invented Nightly at the Matt Franco Theatre at the LINQ hotel. Franco brings guest up close to the magic with his easy stage presence and extreme likability. Imagine your best friend blowing your mind with magic tricks. That's a Matt Franco show. He's funny, engaging, and uses personal stories and videos to make a packed theatre feel as comfortable as your living room.
Las Vegas is always looking for unique attractions and one of the city's newest offerings is a dramatic showcase of the past and the present in the brilliant lights of the city.
The Neon Night Flight Spectacular, in partnership with Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, takes guests on an unforgettable journey through the history and splendor of the iconic sights that Las Vegas is known for - the neon lights.
Aboard an EcoStar helicopter, guest are treated to an incredible night flight over the glow of the Las Vegas Strip and Downtown. Below are top attractions including the Fountains of Bellagio, Eiffel Tower Las Vegas, High Roller Observation Wheel, SkyPod at The Strat, and Allegiant Stadium.
After the helicopter tour, guests journey via luxury ground transportation to The Neon Museum for a 45-guided tour of some of the neon signs that made Las Vegas famous. The Main Boneyard showcases more than 200 signs and looks at the inspirations and technology that played a role in the rich design history from the 1930s to the present day. The night concludes with the largest augmented reality experience of it's kind - a 45-minute illumination light show called "Brilliant! Jackpot". The unrestored signs come back to life with state of the art projection mapping, illuminating the signs to their former glory (and beyond!) as a musical symphony transports visitors through LV history.
(Photo courtesy: The Neon Museum)
In 2020, the pandemic forced the bright lights of Las Vegas to go dark - when casinos and restaurants were shut down, but those beacons are back, bigger and better than ever.