Not-so-smart decisions at the Trop

As some of you know, I participated in the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon this year, and I had a ball. But I’d like to share something that happened before the race that, hopefully, can make a point about what not to do with a Strip casino.

Parking at the race is always an issue. Even if you can get into Mandalay Bay (the host hotel), it’s not always easy to get out with all of the lane closures. So I usually park somewhere else. This year, a big chunk of the race was down Hacienda, and I didn’t want to chance circling around the west side of the Strip trying to find a place to park that wasn’t too far away. Last year I parked at the Tropicana and it worked out pretty well, so I figured I’d try it again. I suggested the same to my running group, adding that the casino had recently changed hands and might be a fun place to stop after the race. I haven’t been inside the hotel since the new regime took over, but I’ve read about the money and effort they’ve been sinking into it, and I think they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Around 4:30 AM, I pulled up and parked, and was stopped by a bike security officer who said that I’d have to move, that parking was for “Tropicana guests only.” The officer was completely reasonable and polite, and said exactly what I’d say if I was in his situation. He said that it wasn’t his idea, that the management had insisted that no one going to the race be allowed to park on the lot. I told him that whoever drafted that policy was an idiot, since the property could use all of the exposure and foot traffic it could get.

(The officer actually used one of my favorite lines–“It’s really not up to me, but they’ve got me on camera and I’ve got to do this.” It worked for me and, this time, it worked on me. It’s nice to see that it’s still effective.)

I made it over to MGM Grand where I parked, passed a bunch of runners in the lobby, and headed over the Mandalay Bay. I got there about ten minutes later than I would have liked and wasn’t shy about letting people know what the Tropicana thought of us runners.

This isn’t just about sour grapes or personal inconvenience. Booting the runners from the parking lot was actually bad business, in my opinion. Here’s why:

The parking lot is already built. It represents a sunk cost. Whether someone parks on it or not, it’s going to cost the same to pay off the construction and maintain it.

That being said, having a full parking lot is a more effective use of the asset than an empty one.

At most, a few dozen runners would have parked in the lot. With acres of open spaces, that wouldn’t have prevented any guests from accessing the hotel. Most of them would be gone by noon. It’s extremely unlikely that hundreds of new guests would be arriving between 5 AM and noon on Sunday morning.

Even if only a few of the runners who parked patronized the restaurants at the Tropicana, isn’t that better than none? Particularly at a property that’s trying desperately to rebuild its image?

This is the kind of thing that irks me because it doesn’t seem to make sense. If I was running the Trop I’d not only encourage runners to park on my lot, I’d offer them a 10% discount on their buffet if they showed their finisher’s medal. The marathon’s already happening; why not capitalize on the fact that it’s happening on your doorstep? The property doesn’t boast the best rooms in Las Vegas or, from what reviews on TripAdvisor say, the best service. It’s best asset is its geography. If you’re not going to use that to your advantage, you’re not thinking about your property strategically.

Maybe the hotel had 100% occupancy that weekend and all of the restaurants were slammed and they didn’t need the business, maybe not. But this is a case study, I think, of management not seeing the forest for the trees.

This policy might have effectively ensured that the Tropicana had a few dozen more empty spaces than they usually do. Unfortunately, it might convince some people to let them stay empty.

Can anyone think of any other policies that, in the end, do more harm than good?

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