We could learn a thing or two from Las Vegas

Just got back from Las Vegas.

Vancouver is rightly regarded as a model of urban planning. In terms of sustainable development, we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re light-years ahead of our prairie cousins.

Las Vegas is, um, a different sort of urban model. Thirty-nine million tourists made their way last year to the great strip of bright lights in the middle of the Nevada desert. They plunked down billions, and most had little to show for it after they left. There is no natural reason why anyone ought to go there… except that it’s a really fun, friendly place to be.

The tourism marketing people of Las Vegas have earned their place in the pantheon of the advertising gods.

3 Comments so far

  1. Kris Taeleman (unregistered) on February 15th, 2007 @ 1:52 am

    I went back to Las Vegas 3 months ago after 5 years and I must say, Vegas isn’t getting cheaper and lots of stuff is getting scaled down (for example: The Mirage volcano).

    I’m always puzzled by the things that go on behind the curtains. The amount of food, cleaning, trash, money transfer,… and especially the fact that you don’t notice these things as a tourist, it’s totally transparent.

  2. Ryan Cousineau (unregistered) on February 15th, 2007 @ 2:28 pm

    Well, Vegas is sort of like the ultimate experiment in restricted zoning.

    For a long time, Nevada was pretty much the only state (Even Atlantic City didn’t have casino gaming until 1977) where you could put up a casino.

    As a result, it became a gambling destination, and it really had no serious competition for that role for decades. The spectacles simply became more and more lavish as time went on, all in the name of drawing more gamblers (and to a lesser extent, other tourists).

    Vegas is probably under some pressure now simply because there’s more casinos all over North America; there’s at least six (and probably more) in Vancouver alone, ranging from the elaborate River Rock to the floating one in New West. With Indian casinos and various other forms of gaming becoming widespread throughout the continent, Vegas’ legal gambling isn’t a distinct feature anymore.

    But with such a big head start in an industry nobody else would touch for a long time, I’m not particularly impressed by Vegas’ advantage.

    The “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” campaign was pretty clever, though.

    The problem with learning from Vegas is that there are too many unique elements, and while it is a tourist mecca, Vegas is apparently a nicer place to visit than it is to live in.

  3. ddrucker (unregistered) on February 17th, 2007 @ 11:05 pm

    Las Vegas is utterly the most artificial city in the world. It’s like a moon-base on Planet Earth. It couldn’t exist without enormous technological and engineering marvels.
    This makes it both fascinating and repellent to me. Vegas is also growing faster than any other American city. That growth will eventually run right up against the physical limits of the Mojave desert.
    If I were truly a betting man, I wouldn’t bet on the future of Vegas in the long term. Humans may be pretty clever, but when you start ignoring reality on the scale of over 2 million people and still growing against all the odds of the surrounding ecosystem, well as they say: The House always wins.

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