November 8, 2008

Hotel Bargains A Surprise For Many CES Attendees

 Procrastinators looking to book a hotel room for this year's Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) may be in for a pleasant surprise.  

With the January 8-11 show only two months away, hotel rooms on the Strip are typically sold out by this time.  However, this year gadget geeks may find that rooms are not only still available, but are actually less expensive than they were for those who booked hotel reservations months ago.

Indeed, last week the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the trade group that organizes the show and represents the $160 billion industry, updated its website with the message "Eight Official CES Hotels Reduce Rates During Show Dates."

"Many hotels are dropping their nightly rates, some as much as $75 a night," CEA said on its site.

CES is an essential forum for more than 2,000 gadget makers from over 140 countries to showcase their latest wares.  In previous years, the show has been the venue where groundbreaking products such as plasma TVs and Microsoft Corp's Xbox video game console made their debut.

In previous years, the 100,000 people that typically attend the four-day show have tied up everything from hotels to restaurants and ground transportation as attendees storm the city to admire the latest consumer devices.

While it's not yet clear if room availability is an indication of waning interest in the show, one real culprit may be that space has been freed up by lagging Las Vegas tourism amid a slowing global economy.  Furthermore, participating companies could be simply sending fewer employees to the show.

Wall Street financial analyst Shannon Cross snatched a room at Steve Wynn's newest resort upon hearing prices had dropped.
"It's been on my list to recheck prices in Vegas, because my reservation was pretty expensive," Cross, who originally made her reservation in September, told Reuters.

"I am going to cancel and rebook -- I'm taking advantage of bargain prices."

On the Strip, the Tropicana Las Vegas slashed its peak rate by 17 percent to $179 a night, while at MGM Mirage's Monte Carlo's the rate has fallen 12 percent to $240.  The rate cuts would be unimaginable in past years, when such rooms would sell for $300.

Despite the reduction in rates at some hotels, CEA said rooms with special CES rates at several high-end hotels, as well as those closest to the convention's main venues, are nevertheless sold out. These include the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas Hilton, Venetian and Mirage.
And advanced registration for the show is "looking good," said a CEA representative.

However, large organizations, which send scores of staffers to work company booths and events, meet with retail buyers and sneak a peek at competitors' gear,  are now more conscientious of travel costs.  And many may reserve fewer rooms than they have in the past.

Casino operator Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. reported a quarterly loss on Friday as the economic slowdown continued to hit the gambling industry.  And Harrah's Entertainment, which operates seven resorts in Las Vegas, attributed its poor results on "the economic upheaval weighing on the country."

Stocks of casino operators have been penalized in recent months as a gambling boom in Las Vegas has dampened, and tight credit markets have threatened future growth plans.  Shares in Las Vegas Sands Corp, which operates the Venetian resort and the Sands Expo and Convention Center where much of CES takes place, plunged Thursday amid concerns about its survivability.


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