A bunch of conferences, the Kentucky Derby, and the “once in a century” fight means the Las Vegas Strip is almost entirely booked out. And prices for the few rooms left are astronomical.
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You'll need more than luck if you want to get a ticket to the already historic Mayweather–Pacquiao fight on May 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. A very limited number of tickets will be offered to the general public — only 600 or 700 out of a 20,000-seat arena — with the rest going to celebrities, high rollers, and other VIP sports fans. Those limited tickets aren't even on sale yet, and already they're expected to fetch more than 10 times their face value of $ 1,500 to $ 7,500 each.
But forget getting into the actual fight. Finding a hotel room on the Strip that night may be just as difficult, with the town that is legendary for its flood of hotel rooms looking close to fully booked.
A search of online travel agencies and the websites of the major hospitality companies that control most of the properties on the Strip shows only a handful of rooms available the night of May 2 at the Venetian, Aria, and Caesar's Palace. The cheapest among them start at $ 999, $ 1,199, and $ 1299, depending on the hotel.
The 7,000-room MGM Grand is completely sold out, as is the Bellagio, both of the Wynn properties, and nearly every other hotel on the Strip that helps comprise the 150,000 rooms Las Vegas has to offer. Moreover, the rate of around $ 1,000 for a standard room is nearly 10 times the $ 137 average daily rate for a room on the Strip last May. Prices averaged $ 127 and $ 109 per night in 2013 and 2012, respectively, according to data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).
“The Mayweather–Pacquiao fight is drawing a big crowd and living up to the hype as the fight of the century,” Dan Connolly, senior associate dean at the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, specializing in hospitality trends, told BuzzFeed News. “But there are likely other demand generators — for example, the Kentucky Derby betting crowd — happening around the same time that are filling up all of Vegas' rooms, not just the MGM where the fight will take place. Certainly, the marketing machines are heavily promoting this to generate demand. It will be something to watch for more reasons than one.”
Bracketing the weekend of the fight are a number of big conferences, including the National Hardware Show, which is expecting about 30,000 visitors, and Collision, a tech-focused sister event of the Web Summit, a big European tech conference that expects 7,000 to 10,000 visitors. The SALT conference, an annual gathering for the hedge fund industry, kicks off on the Tuesday after the fight and expects about 2,000 attendees, and it's safe to assume many of its high-roller finance guests will show up a few days early for the most expensive fight in boxing history.
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Julian Dugas, director of sports marketing at the LVCVA, said the Derby crowd, as well as the city's extremely lucrative conference and convention business, is helping create the perfect storm for the weekend of the fight, drawing in huge crowds that have pushed occupancy levels to the point of New Year's Eve and a handful of ultra popular trade shoes, like the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
“A couple of things are happening over the [May 2 weekend] time period — a few meetings are in town,” Dugas told BuzzFeed News. “May is a very, very popular time of the year for meetings, conventions, and trade shows because the weather is spectacular here, so you're going to have that demand on the product, and if it's a big show you have that segment of the market there, and they're staying at the Strip hotels. You also have the Kentucky Derby, which demand is high for as well.”
Hands down the busiest property of the weekend will be the MGM Grand, the site of the fight. The hospitality chain will also be offering what Dugas describes as “closed-circuit opportunities” within all of its properties to broadcast the fight, as well as viewing parties at ballrooms throughout MGM hotels.
“So even if you don't have a ticket to the fight itself, you can participate in the pageantry and the excitement of it in the sports book and ballrooms set up to watch it,” Dugas said. “So when you have the normal traffic that comes in, plus that, it's going to put a tremendous amount of pressure on our product.”
The influx of visitors to Las Vegas around the weekend of the fight brings together three of the groups driving the city's return to growth as a destination: leisure, sports, and business. Occupancy levels have crept into the low-90% range for the city's hotels during May and other popular times of the year, and the number of total yearly visitors has grown by a couple million people since 2012, reaching more than 41 million in 2014.
On the sports front, the city is investing in its steady flow of spectator business that will reach critical mass with the Mayweather–Pacquiao fight next month. A new 20,000-seat arena from live events giant AEG is slated to open next May, a massive structure Dugas calls the “Staples Center on steroids” to accommodate the various sporting events the city hosts each year.
“Las Vegas has been known as the boxing capital of the world and the UFC capital of the world,” Dugas said. “Sports have always played an important part in the dynamic of this destination. We have professional bull riding, NASCAR, a PGA tournament, a lot of championship events. After the downturn there were an awful lot of folks that used to travel internationally, and Las Vegas has become the place that people started coming to. It's quick — you can get here easily from almost anywhere in the U.S., and there are more nonstop flights coming here than almost any other places as far as a destination's concerned.”