The two biggest demographics in Las Vegas these days seem to be nightclubbers and international visitors. As a bit of anecdotal evidence of the trend, the casinos in development that have stoked the imagination plan to cater either to the former (SLS, Gansevoort) or the latter (Resorts World). So when you get the two together—international visitors who like to party—you know you’re talking gold mine. Add in that they’re from one of the most lucrative feeder markets for Vegas—the United Kingdom—and you’re practically printing cash.
The Vegas nightlife scene today represents a British invasion: The Light Group—which runs, among other venues, 1 Oak, Haze, The Bank and Light—was founded by Surrey-born Andrew Sasson. Angel Management Group—operator of Pure, Wet Republic and the soon-to-open Hakkasan—was started and is still helmed by Neil Moffit, who developed several British venues before moving on to Ibiza and, in 2004, Las Vegas. Meanwhile, ONE Group—which has brought STK, Bagatelle and Heraea to town—is run by Jonathan Segal, who got his start in the United Kingdom.
It’s no surprise, then, that one of the latest Vegas startups is dedicated to helping vacationing Brits find their way among the day and night-clubs of Las Vegas.
Nightlife concierges have been around since the bottle-service explosion of the early 2000s. These services get customers into the choicest spots at the hottest clubs without waiting. But London2Vegas, founded last year by James Barrington-Madders and fellow countryman Elias Antoniou, specializes in helping Brits get the biggest bang for their party buck.
Barrington-Madders, 26, has a few theories about the attraction Las Vegas holds for Brits. “It’s got such an all or nothing mentality,” he says.
“Practically speaking, the pound is strong, so your money goes far here. But I’ll be honest; for British guys, we love American girls, and they love the British accent. We don’t have this scene in England, and there’s absolutely nothing they can compare it to once they get here.”
There’s no better example of why Britain comes to Las Vegas than last summer’s naked billiards marketing campaign, starring Prince Harry. It wasn’t sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, but it was more successful in getting Brits to consider a trip to the desert than anything the local Mad Men could have dreamed up: Nothing says “Vegas is the place to cut loose” like a naked prince jangling the crown jewels in an Encore suite. Barrington-Madders’ phone was ringing off the hook. To the football midfielders and city brokers signing on with him, Las Vegas is the flip side of stiff-upper-lip Britain.
Brits aren’t the first islanders to have an abiding love for a lasting cultural impact on Las Vegas: For years, Las Vegas has been known as the “Ninth Island” because of its appeal to Hawaiians, and Downtown’s California hotel became a sort of headquarters for Hawaiian tourists. So is Hakkasan going to be the hip British version of the California?
Maybe so: Tourism from the United Kingdom is up. Seven airlines fly from various cities in the U.K. to Las Vegas, with nonstops from London and Manchester. In fact, the LVCVA maintains a separate website, VisitLasVegas.co.uk, dedicated to getting Brits to Sin City.
So what can Las Vegas do to make sure the British keep coming? Barrington-Madders says more direct flights is an obvious start, but he also points to a shift in the city’s musical palate as a sign of things to come. “The clubs are steering to European house music because they’re competing against Ibiza and getting people to come to Las Vegas instead.”
That’s what it comes down to: In the past decade, Las Vegas has learned that, with gambling already spread across most of the United States, it can’t rely on the casino floor as a sole draw. There’s no reason to fly four hours to play a slot machine when you can drive half-an-hour.
But a DJ lineup that can rival Ibiza—well, for many Brits, that’s a reason to start saving for airfare.
What will be the next big international market for Vegas tourists? Tell us in the comments section below.