Where can the downturn work to your advantage? It's Vegas, baby!

Jason Cochran


What happens in Vegas may stay there, but these days, the problem is how to get there in the first place.

McCarran Airport, Vegas' major entry point, reported its biggest year-on-year drop since after 9/11. And Southwest Airlines, the rare profitable airline which recently said it wouldn't need to tighten its flight schedule, reversed course and said 13 flights, or about 5% of its Las Vegas seats, would be eliminated starting in January. Considering Southwest is one of the most reliable feeder of tourist traffic to the Strip, that's quite a blow.

To further put it in perspective, as of Sept. 2, Vegas had 81 flights from U.S. Airways daily. A year ago, it had 141.

The pain, though, is mostly for hoteliers and airlines. Tourists are starting to see a real benefit to the growing malaise. On Tuesday, Arthur Frommer wrote about seeing an ad for a two-night Planet Hollywood package for $149 per person that came with either $100 back or two free show tickets. When he called to book, he told the receptionist it was still too expensive. And just like that, he was offered the same deal for two people at $249 total. That's desperation.

Earlier this summer, casinos were low-balling tourists with archaic rates like $33 to $55 a room. Even now, prices on the Strip are sliding southward (the Sahara for $24, the Tropicana, $46, both quoted through a Hotels.com promotion) and rooms off the Strip are so low (like $20 at the Plaza Hotel off Fremont Street), they're virtually tragic.