Updated July 25, 2021 - 6:17 pm
Health districts across the country are encouraging their residents not to travel to Las Vegas because of the rising numbers of documented coronavirus cases here.
It may seem unfair to a place that’s just getting its rebound bearings to have people in rural Hawaii, California and Chicago single out Las Vegas when other destinations are having similar or worse problems.
The latest developments come at a time when meetings and trade shows are starting to reappear at local convention centers, major special events are being scheduled at performance venues and the Raiders and Golden Knights anticipate packed stadiums when their seasons start in a few months. Another big event: McCarran International Airport is reopening its E gates to domestic airlines as carriers such as Frontier Airlines go through major expansions in Las Vegas.
But on the downside, employees must wear masks indoors through at least Aug. 17 as the county again tries to stem the spread of COVID-19.
How do you counter health department edicts like these?
Billy Vassiliadis, a principal with Las Vegas-based R&R Partners, which this month was awarded a multimillion-dollar “advertising agency of record” contract from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, recognizes the situation as a challenge as great or greater than the challenges the agency has faced in the past 18 months.
“We have spent more time in the last 18 months putting up and taking down advertising as we have been advertising, based on surges, numbers, advisories, capacity limits, masking limits and airline capacity issues,” Vassiliadis said.
It appears that the people making decisions about coming to Las Vegas are likely the same ones who aren’t going to listen to health department advice.
“The folks that haven’t been vaccinated are probably the ones that have been coming here all along,” Vassiliadis said. “I don’t know that they’re going to be deterred.”
Which leads back to the issue of vaccinations and the challenges the state, county and local health departments are facing to get more people to be vaccinated.
So, rather than the LVCVA working to counter what other health departments are saying, the message is directed more locally about the importance of being vaccinated to people’s lives and to the livelihood of the tourism economy.
Vassiliadis said local leaders want to be respectful of the health officials in other states, so the convention authority will work more toward joining the state and county to deliver more pop-up vaccination sites with the help of the LVCVA’s resort partners.
So why are the health districts picking on Las Vegas?
“Vegas is so visible and it’s easy to point to, but I’m going to guess that a lot of those states are having folks come from other states that are causing equal or greater problems,” Vassiliadis said. “And those states are having their own challenges of getting their own people vaccinated.”
He said similar problems are occurring in other tourism destinations where the conditions are similar — large gatherings of people not socially distanced and not wearing masks in crowded spaces.
“It is a national problem. You can talk about Vegas, but Florida — and I’m not casting aspersions on anybody else — is such a big tourism destination and Orlando is one of our significant convention competitors and they have numbers that are worse than ours,” he said.
Still Vassiliadis is optimistic. He expects to see vaccination numbers rise in the next month after the county imposed its employee mask mandate and those who have been vaccinated work with their friends and families to persuade them to follow their lead.
“We know that we’re doing everything we can to get people here vaccinated, and now employees are going to be masked,” he said. “Some of the properties have 90 percent vaccination rates among employees.”