Thoughts on the Westward Ho

The Westward Ho casino closed yesterday, and one RJ reporter called me as a matter of course for my learned opinion on the significance of this event. Actually, I suspect that most of the people in her rolodex were away from the phone for the afternoon. But I’m always happy to help, and I was in a particularly expansive mood (probably from my successful lecture tour of south-central Missouri earlier in the week).

You can read the results for yourself, from the LVRJ:

The Westward Ho, wedged between Circus Circus and the Stardust, isn’t the only budget hotel-casino to close on or around the Strip this fall. The 166-room Bourbon Street just east of the Barbary Coast closed last month to make way for an unnamed Harrah’s Entertainment development. And the trend will continue into 2006, as MGM Mirage closes the 200-room Boardwalk on Jan. 9 in preparation for the company’s $5 billion CityCenter project.

David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV, said the loss of affordable hotel rooms raises questions about the market segments Las Vegas can cater to in the future.

“I don’t think the sky is falling, but as more affordable properties go offline and more premium properties come online, we have to think about what is going to happen with the value-oriented traveler,” Schwartz said. “Will they still be attracted to Las Vegas? Will they go to an Indian casino or maybe to Laughlin, Jean or Mesquite?”

Fewer budget properties on the Strip also could translate into better business for casinos in the urban core of Las Vegas, Schwartz said.

“If someone wants a room for $40 or $60 a night downtown, it could be a case of a silver lining for everybody. You would have the more affluent consumer on the Strip and draw more people downtown, too,” said Schwartz, who recollects stopping in at the Westward Ho for a 75-cent Heineken on a visit to Las Vegas about six years ago, before he moved to the city in 2001.

“It was pretty cool,” he said of the property. — News – Last hurrah for Westward Ho

I stand by my analysis: the Ho was indeed “pretty cool.” The 75-cent Heineken was cold, and quite a balm to a grad student in town to do research at UNLV Special Collections.

Seriously, I was concerned about budget rooms disappearing, so I did a little research: Isearched Expedia for package deals on a random weekend in January. For two people flying from Chicago, things were, I thought, remarkably affordable. Here are some highlights:

Cheapest: Gold Spike, $301/person
Most Expensive: Four Seasons, $781/person

Cheapest on the Strip: Stratosphere, $365/person

Sunset Station ($397) is more expensive than Sahara ($388)

Excalibur ($449) is pricier than Flamingo or Harrah’s.

Bally’s ($494) is pricier than the Ritz Carlton at Lake Las Vegas ($478), Luxor ($478), and the MGM Grand ($466). I’m guessing that those aren’t the Mansion suites in the MGM package.

The Palms ($770) is way more expensive than Wynn Las Vegas ($700), Bellagio ($617), or THEhotel at Mandalay Bay ($614).

Since this is per person, of course you should multiply by 2 to get the total cost of airfare and hotel for 2 people for the weekend.

I know that equity research companies do room-rate surveys, but this seems a quick way of gauging how much fairly budget-conscious consumers are playing for hotel rooms in Las Vegas. With the 75-cent Heinekens gone, they’ll need to stretch their travel dollars a bit farther, after all.

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