On a recent Wednesday night, the famous Las Vegas strip was teeming with tourists. Families crowded around the Fountains of Bellagio, enthralled by the light show as geysers of water soared hundreds of feet into the air while Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady” blasted over the loudspeakers.
Showgirls roamed the strip in pairs, posing for photos with visitors — for a fee. Street vendors hawked waters and balloons. The only noticeable reminder of the pandemic were the masks obscuring most of the faces.
More than a year after the coronavirus pandemic turned the city into a ghost town, Las Vegas is slowly coming back to life, aided by the vaccine rollout and tentative reopenings.
Spiegelworld’s cornerstone show “Absinthe” became one of the first Strip entertainment events to reopen on March 17 and is now boasting sold-out evening performances every Wednesday through Sunday.
The performances — a fantastical blend of carnival and spectacle — take place inside a tent located outside of Caesars Palace. Attendees are ushered to socially distanced tables inside as masked performers dazzle the crowd.
Genevieve Landry has worked as an aerialist with “Absinthe” for the past decade. She says she’s grateful to be working again but knows that many other entertainers aren’t as lucky.
“It’s been rough emotionally seeing the industry and community so impacted by the pandemic,” Landry said. “Entertaining people is our passion so now we feel even more of a responsibility to help people get out of their homes safely and to put on an amazing show to help them forget the outside world even if for just a bit.”
Big meetings are missing
Inside the Venetian Casino Resort, masked visitors roamed past hand sanitizer stations and blackjack tables outfitted with plexiglass for safety. Gondoliers still ferry visitors along canals that snake their way through the property, but as an added precaution the serenading is now done by socially distanced musicians stationed along various points of the ride.
Venetian President and CEO George Markantonis says the city is recovering and the Venetian’s daily bookings are exceeding pre-Covid levels. As one of the largest private meeting spaces in North America, the Venetian took a hit from the canceled events and conferences over the past year.
“The missing piece are the business travelers for the conventions and the expo center,” said Markantonis. “The good news is that none of the events are canceling for the second half of the year. It looks like we will finish 2021 strong and have an outstanding 2022.”
As nonessential businesses, Las Vegas casinos were ordered to close last March, costing thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in lost revenue. The city had one of the highest unemployment rates in America last April.
“It has been more difficult on Las Vegas than probably any city in the United States,” said Steve Hill, President and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
The organization recently completed a 1.4 million square foot expansion to the Las Vegas Convention Center,