Las Vegas casino hotels are back in business—but that doesn't mean business is good.
Returning casinos have been dealt a potentially losing hand: Health measures have taken away buffets, shows, and free-flowing booze.
Signs of desperation are everywhere.
Parking used to be one of the most reliable perks at the casinos, but in recent years, owners got greedy and brought in charges. Following the nosedive in attendance figures, though, many of those owners have announced that they will roll back parking fees to entice customers to return.
Now comes word that the Sahara Las Vegas, a name that has been lit up on the Strip on and off since 1952 (above, the resort is pictured as it looked in 2005), is returning to the days when casinos were kinder. The Sahara will waive its resort fee for bookings made in June. Reserve now, and there will be no resort fee on any stay through May 31, 2021.
At the Sahara, the resort fee is usually around $43—which is higher than the base price of many Vegas hotel rooms to begin with. (Room rates across the street at Circus Circus start at $18 per night).
The Sahara's move sends a powerful signal. The coronavirus has induced a desperation that could drive out resort fees.
It's safe to say no tourist will miss them. Resort fees are a scam and a scourge in American travel. Other nations have banned them. And as years pass, challenges to the fees have risen and fallen along with vacationers' blood pressure.
But the Sahara just proved that resorts can be persuaded to ditch the fees to win you back.
Granted, we're not talking about one of the top-tier casino hotels in Las Vegas. The Sahara's owners are trying to rebuild the brand after previous failed iterations as an SLS and a W hotel. The place isn't even that big (1,600 rooms) by Strip standards, especially when compared to the behemoths further south.
But we've spotted a wavering in the poker faces of hotels charging added fees. With casinos desperate to get business back but cornered into delivering a diminished Strip experience, the Sahara's move could be remembered as the moment Vegas blinked—revealing the tell that tipped a bad hand.
And you know what that means: It's time to call their bluff.
If we want to change our vacation landscape for the better, it's up to us as travelers to favor the hotels that don't charge resort fees. As you return to travel, give those fee-free properties your business and don't return to the ones that put resort fees on the bill.
Now that hotels want to be nicer to us to win our business, we as consumers have the upper hand. Use it.