Passing’s, Presidents, Pandemics, Progress.

Testbed Vegas Sheldon Adelson

Vale Sheldon Adelson

Following a year of global loss 2021 begins with a another significant loss for Las Vegas and the gaming community at large. At the grand age of 87 Sheldon Adelson passed away leaving behind a massive legacy and one of the most successful gaming empires in the world.

Although for all that success Testbed Vegas will recall the legacy of his behavior to Las Vegas and his employees through the COVID19 crisis. Alone of the gaming corporations, Sands Corporation took the high ground in looking after their employees and maintaining their workforce for the length of the crisis. A shining example of leadership and civic mindedness.

Beyond this contribution Sheldon Adelson’s Sands properties in Las Vegas and around the world have set an example of integrated resorts synonymized with business success. Today the announcement came out about the sale of the Las Vegas assets. Vale Sheldon Adelson.

No longer will you be asked, “Do you want fries with that”? Now the new follow up line will be, ‘Do you want points with that”?

And with that, depending upon how you approach the start and end of a decade, we have entered the roaring 20’s! 100 years ago, the comparisons of what was going on in the world then are uncanny. The last global health crisis of the Spanish Flu, upon the devastation of World War 1. Then, the globe was weary of war and pestilence. Now? Perhaps not as much devastation through war. However, the COVID19 crisis has laid the world low and some suggest we are primed for a repeat of the 1920’s. What do you think?

What about the election? Testbed Vegas is glad to see the back of politics, at least for a little while.  Donald departs, not without much-anticipated drama. Joe arrives not without a much-anticipated return of the quiet business of government. Now we can focus on more important things than the latest tweet. Enough about that.

The World Travel & Tourism Council released some telling statistics about the global state of tourism in 2020. Tourism shrunk by 17% in 2020. Our industry colleagues at home and around the world bore the brunt of the economic fallout of the COVID19 crisis more than any industry. Although the prediction is that as many as 100+ million jobs will be recovered in 2021. That is the type of news we all like to hear.

What are your plans for the digital transformation of your business?

2020 did not cease innovation and many would argue that the circumstances accelerated some of the promise of change in the way industry operates and how we live our lives. Disconnecting and digital living has been on the up. Fast Company reviewed their top 50 innovators in 2020. Exciting to see so many companies listed coming from the travel sector. Every part of our industry is represented by these companies. Considering the ‘flat tire’ of 2020 it’s gratifying to see such an outsized contribution.

Speaking of digitizing lives follow the Thread. Thread shows promise as the unifying communication layer for IoT and smart home devices. Why is this important? Right now, these devices are closed environments. This development promises to open the door so to speak. Smart Homes becomes Smart Buildings, and this will ultimately have a major impact on travel and hospitality. Increased flexibility will lower design and infrastructure cost, increased interoperability and suitability of mainstream consumer tech to industry. Lots to come here.

A year on the dirty Boulevard

Testbed Vegas Las Vegas sign

And what a year it has been. In terms of a town that has a wealth of historical data about industry performance it shows that 2020 was anything less than roaring on Las Vegas Boulevard. Although it follows that opportunity for a resurgence exists and many have seized the opportunity with a view to the future.

Firstly, courtesy of the great work of Shannon Okada at HVS Las Vegas, the local branch of the global hospitality consulting company we are pleased to share Shannon’s end of 2020 research and results. You can review the full report here. Summary? Tough to digest for a city used to 42M visitors a year – a step back to pre-1990 levels of visitation and revenues. Shannon’s comprehensive report provides an historical appreciation of the year 2020 and is excellent reading. Thank you to Shannon and Lizzete Cazarin from HVS.

HVS.com retains the copyright to the articles published in their website. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HVS.

Some other little gems to go along with the Bright Light City numbers include McCarran airports annual results. Down more that 50%. As a general rule not a great year for the gaming industry around the United States with a more than 30% impact.  

But this is Vegas baby! We will not be cowed by a rough year. What’s coming? Well, 12000 more accommodation rooms between now and 2024 to start.

Are you not entertained?!

CES happened in January, albeit digital and the consumer electronics giant took their first steps into the world of digital events. A very tough objective for a show that is so much about touching and feeling tech products. It’s OK. The expanded Las Vegas Convention Center is primed for 2022!

In the meantime, Governor Sisolak announced a renewed effort toward the diversification of Southern Nevada. No doubt the three-time experience of market devastation prompted the government to think differently about the future of the state and the genuine opportunities that exist beyond hospitality & gaming. Testbed Vegas has long held the view and joined a discussion with fellow city agitators on a Clubhouse session discussing the opportunity for new industries as organized by Natalie Wainwright. Joshua Leavitt, formerly of Punchcode is working towards a framework for a broader industry innovation community leveraging small business.

Our friends up North at Nonstop announced their new product – UV Station combining in room bedside tech with a UV light sanitization bed. Keep that remote clean! Any anything else you might want to place under a UV light. How many germs does UV light take care of? 99.999% That’s almost as good as cloud data center uptime!

Further afield in the gaming world lot’s happening in Testbed Vegas’ home country of Australia with Crown undergoing a season of pain having been found to be not operating ‘correctly’ courtesy of their junket operation. Junket’s are predominantly China driven high value gaming groups that travel to casinos. Could Las Vegas Sands be interested? Tabcorp, the other big gaming operator who started in the business of horse racing is also eyeing the iGaming business too.

In Macau the time is approaching where extension of the gaming licenses currently afforded in partnership with the major US gaming operators are up for review. The current geopolitical challenges between the US and China will have business leaders thinking about how things may pan out as the process moves forwards.

Speaking of pre-1990 levels of business and visitation in Las Vegas, have a look at how the strip looked in 1988.

Direct Booking and direct impact

Pre-pandemic OYO was all the news for their rapid expansion and mixed owner opinions on performance. The ensuing COVID-12 Months has given the company time to address software functionality. Reading the news on the type of functionality not available makes for an extraordinary expose. Testbed Vegas wonders how OYO substantiates claims to have operational technology with some of the missing core-basics needed for hotel operations.

Camping and all things outdoors – disconnected – travel has benefited from the pandemic. Hipcamp, a camping focused booking platforms secured significant funding on the back of traveler demand. In another approach to driving direct traffic Expedia removed all homestay inventory from Google. Definitely an optional approach to securing direct custom. It might very well be an interesting experiment for the future in the Search vs OTA battle.

On the jobs front even as the vaccine reaches markets there has been continued impact on the sector resulting from slow festive season travel. Some operators are continuing to forecast reduction in manpower causing consternation for industry unions fighting for their members livelihoods.

higuard hospitality technology information security

Information Security in 2021.

What are you doing about it?

The recently departed President Trump has a new job. He is a hotelier once again. After a tumultuous four years in the Oval Office what will the future of the Trump brand be? The brand and properties tend to be well received in the market and despite opinions of Mr. Trump, for the sake of the employees hopefully they can resume a level of normal operations.

Name your price. What do you think about that as idea for your next hotel stay? That’s the approach that Denver based Soul Community Project has taken on rates for your hotel room. The company is betting on the idea of fair exchange with the right type of guest in return for their lifestyle hotel product. We like it.  Let’s see how they go!

As is the annual circumstance in the polar regions of the world the Ice Hotel is back for the season, albeit with a shift in approach for COVID circumstances. The Ice Hotel is carved out of…ice each year in Sweden and you can have a cool stay experience as long as it lasts.

What about some hotel tech? The dirty remote control has always been a challenge. Even more so in COVID times. Now there’s an app that you can use on your phone to control most TV brands. More details on the Smart Room as major players consolidate around another standard protocol across the IP spectrum for smart devices. For those who have tried to bring about a smart connected room in your hotel, you know this is hard work! Developments such as this make the potential for a commercial grade plug & play approach more realistic as we move forward. It wouldn’t be tech if the Robots didn’t get a mention. The COVID pandemic has also accelerated interest in this potential for the hotel industry.

Come fly with my box!

Testbed Vegas - KLM introduces Cargo-in-Cabin: carrying cargo on passenger seats

We are all well aware that a whole lot of flying is not going on at the moment. At least for people. While there is some gradual improvement around the world Winter in the northern hemisphere brought a renewed negative impact on a brief surge of travel. However, there are more boxes than ever flying around with some airlines carrying boxes in their passenger seats. Amazon has pounced on the opportunity to increase their own logistics fleet with the spare aircraft sitting around in the deserts of the world.

Unfortunately, the anticipated fallout is that many of the low-cost carriers have gradually disappeared in the process. A Testbed Vegas favorite Norwegian announcing that international flights will be discontinued. If you can catch a plane, you may as well catch one that stays in the air. This year’s evaluations of the safest passenger airlines in the world. Back on top – Qantas. Upon observation it’s probably easier to be safe when you are not flying your aircraft! Qantas has not flown international flights for much of 2020.

Do you drink alcohol when you fly? The novelty wore off for Testbed Vegas a long time ago. However, if you do enjoy your 10 mile high tipple here’s some advice on the best way to fly with a beverage.

What about electric planes? Here’s an update on progress toward battery powered commercial aircraft.

Lost in COVID travel space

While there’s not a lot of travel going on there is still plenty going on in the travel sector. Much of it future focused. Take a look at how things are faring in destinations around the world with this tool.

One place you won’t be going anytime soon is Australia with the country stating that international travel is unlikely to recommence until 2021. Australians can’t leave and about 40000 are stranded around the world can’t go home. In related news talk is that the US will initiate a requirement for all travelers to have a negative COVID test and quarantine.

Exploring new ways to travel, the hyperloop shows promise for a different type of travel experience. Get a sense of what it might be like to travel on Virgin’s hyperloop. The other fast emerging travel type is into orbit. Based upon current plans the first non-professional astronauts will go into orbit with Space X in January 2022. Not even twelve months from now. The pilot is a real estate and technology entrepreneur! But you do have to train to be able to space-fly. Get some insight into what it is like to go to space camp.

Pre CES 2020 Testbed Vegas addressed the French delegation on travel technology and Las Vegas. The French government is investing heavily in entrepreneur programs for travel and hospitality technology. Here are some of the successes to date.

On travel tech, earlier we shared Fast Company’s review of innovators in the industry. But who are the unicorns and where have they come from? TMNT took on a study of the 49 companys that have become the movers and shakers of travel tech around the world. Tripadvisor has embarked on a new model as a subscription platform on top of their industry review expertise. The move is intended to bring a value add combining membership benefits and access to improved pricing with hotel partners for their booking capabilities through book on Tripadvisor.

If you can’t do any travel, then maybe you can spend the down time learning about it. Why not combine your studies in all things travel with a sojourn in the Canary Islands. That’s where Amadeus, the travel technology giant is establishing their industry school. Atlantic Island, beaches, study. Can’t all be bad!

Would you like points with that?

Testbed Vegas - McDonalds Loyalty App

The biggest restaurant company in America is taking a loyalty and rewards play. Lots of disciples of the Golden Arches chasing their points with every purchase. No longer will you be asked, “Do you want fries with that”? Now the new follow up line will be, ‘Do you want points with that”? We jest. Although the restaurant giant is currently piloting the program in Arizona and Nevada.

The hand that makes a kitchen work! Making a debut as CES 2021 is the Moley Robotic Kitchen. With a pedigree in robotics application to the business world Moley launched their domestic kitchen at CES. The kitchen with the aid of the hand can cook and clean. You can even choose from a range of recipes that the smart kitchen can make. Who’s doing the dishes?

On the topic of kitchens, the breakout service model for the restaurant industry in 2020 was the Ghost Kitchen. Directly translating as a kitchen without a restaurant front of house or a restaurant without a kitchen depending upon how you view this. Due to the lack of dining and massive emergence of delivered and picked up food the model kept some restaurants in operation or was a pivot from normal operations. Will this last? As the pandemic eventually comes under control will the shine come off the idea of virtual restaurants in favor of returning to your favorite for everything the experience brings?

The other area that has been heavily impacted is table service restaurants across the spectrum of the dining experience. With the guest unable to dine on premises the need for service and additional hospitality has been drastically reduced under COVID-19 conditions. What is service vs. hospitality? Is there a difference? Jim Sullivan’s article on Nations Restaurant News makes for great reading.

Something we recently saw addressing operational needs for restaurants is Backboard. An interactive handsfree visual communication platform designed to be deployed in restaurants or any business environment where access to computing devices might not be available for all staff. Let alone digitizing the notice board. The technology is interactive of the fashion of the movie The Minority Report in reviewing key information about the business.

Testbed Vegas Foodnbevtech Restaurant

Right sized help to find the right technology for your restaurant.

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In Home Travel for the stir crazy

For the most part we are all still stuck at home. A handful of intrepid travelers flying around the world from one stage of quarantine to another. If you are not one of those people here are few ideas.

If you can’t fly, then you can walk. Here’s a list of some of the great walking cities of the world. With any luck you might be in one of them, or at least can drive there. LA and Miami are the US destinations. While you are there perhaps you can source some dumplings. Here’s a list of some of the most popular dumplings from different cultures around the world. In Las Vegas we have access to quite a few of these. Wash it down with a beer. This is what you will pay for a reasonably priced brew wherever you happen to be on the orb.

If none of that inspires you what about recreating a Tokyo experience? Here’s a chronological list of things to do to make you feel like you are the thriving capital of Japan. If it’s been too long between flights and you still can’t fly then maybe you can stay on a plane. There’s a retired 747 Jumbo in Stockholm that you can stay the night in. You’ll just have to get there!

2020 was an extremely tough year for the global travel and hospitality industries. It is the set of industries that were most impacted by the COVID19 pandemic. We’re not out of it yet. However there do seem to be a number of positive signs with Vaccine rollouts and the natural sentiments of a new business year providing a level of optimism on improved conditions. No doubt there is a pent up demand for travel experiences as well.

Before too long we might be able to gather again in groups. See you then!

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