Hilton once dominated Vegas. The first New York Stock Exchange-listed company to enter the domestic gaming business in 1970 with the Las Vegas Hilton, it originated the idea of the hotel residency, most notably featuring Elvis Presley in flashy white jumpsuits for a run of sold-out shows at the marquee property from 1969 until his final performance in 1976 (the singer died the following year). In 1981, the Las Vegas Hilton clinched the title of the largest hotel in the world. Nine years ago, the iconic property closed.
But Hilton is back in a big way in Vegas. In June, the company reopened the Las Vegas Hilton — not in its former home (now occupied by Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino) but in the cherry-red towers of the new $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas. It’s the first new integrated resort to be built on the Strip in more than a decade.
On top of that, Hilton debuted two more hotels inside Resorts World: the art-driven Conrad Las Vegas (the world’s biggest Conrad) and the ultra-luxurious Crockfords Las Vegas, LXR Hotels & Resorts, which is just the second U.S. LXR property after Oceana Santa Monica. Totaling 3,500 guest rooms and suites across three hotels on 88 acres, Resorts World is Hilton’s largest property worldwide.
Surreptitiously, Resorts World opened almost exactly 50 years after the Las Vegas Hilton’s debut. “Everything about the [original] Las Vegas Hilton was helping this destination become known as the entertainment hub of the United States and the world,” says Gary Steffen, global brand head, Hilton Hotels & Resorts.
Hilton hopes to do the same for Sin City today. Steffen says the company is setting its sights on Las Vegas because of pent-up demand among tourists. According to a recent Hilton survey, nearly a quarter of Americans ranked Vegas at the top of their post-pandemic travel list, and 20 percent cited the Strip as a must-see attraction.
“Las Vegas has always been up there, but one out of four as their top destination to travel post-pandemic?” Steffen says. “It says a lot about this destination.”
Over the past three years, Hilton has worked to nearly double its presence in the sought-after city. The company will have more than 30 hotels and more than 11,000 rooms across 12 brands in Vegas by the end of 2021. “It’s a very important market for us,” he says. “Bringing the Hilton brand back was a huge priority.” In addition to the Resorts World properties, Hilton’s Vegas lineup includes Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas, which opened in 2018, and Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, a Curio Collection, which launched in June.
But according to Steffen, Resorts World is a big step for Hilton. “I don’t know if you’ll ever see three brands like this brought together under one integrated campus again, where you’ve got a Hilton, a Conrad and an LXR all on one campus that has the pool area with seven different pools — the only infinity pool here in Vegas,” he says. “Then the 40 different food and beverage outlets, the nightclub, the 500-seat entertainment venue, the entertainers — everything about this is just so unique, one-of-a-kind.”
Another unique feature is the property’s savvy use of technology. Resorts World comes from tech-forward developer Malaysia-based Genting Group (whose other properties include Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Crockfords at Resorts World Genting outside of Kuala Lumpur), and it offers a number of innovations. For example, the 117,000-square-foot casino accommodates cashless transactions through the Resorts World app — the first in the country to do so. And it’s the first Vegas hotel to partner with a cryptocurrency exchange.
Room service also gets a tech upgrade with the help of Grubhub. You can order room service from across the property’s 40 restaurants or items from select onsite shops through the Grubhub app and have it delivered to your room or even a poolside lounger. In addition, Resorts World boasts one of the largest LED building displays in the world, spanning 100,000 square feet.
“This hotel is pushing us to think differently,” Steffen says. “Think about the ability to utilize an app and order your food and have it picked up or delivered rather than calling on a phone [for] room service. That’s one of the takeaways. That’s great learning across our enterprise that we will start leveraging.”
A bonus is that these advances are also COVID-friendly. Steffen says that the pandemic spurred Hilton to provide more of the touchless experiences that guests want. He points to the ability to use a digital key instead of the plastic standby. He says one in four Hilton Honors members uses the digital key, but Resorts World is looking to push that to 50 percent or higher.
Resorts World is also beta testing key sharing. Previously you would check in via digital key and then everyone in your party would have to check in separately to get it. But key sharing allows you to “push” the key to anyone in your group. “That’s just another one of those examples where the goal for this hotel — to take the pressure off of the welcome experience and have more people using digital — is going to help our enterprise,” he says.