2019 will mark a monumental shift for Las Vegas as the city continues to rebuild itself as a premier destination not simply for cash-heavy card players and booze-seeking bachelors, but specifically, the Instagram generation, whose travel whims and pleasure-seeking are driven by aspiration, association and meaningful experiences—not partying and cheap thrills. The city's cultural makeover began almost immediately after the 2008 recession, which snuck up on Clark County after it pulled in a record $10.9 billion in gaming revenue in 2007. Facing an economic downturn in profits and foot traffic—mind you, the seven-year old luxe Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas almost didn't finish construction due to foreclosure—the city of Las Vegas double-downed on its non-gaming entertainment.
Of course, the granddaddy—or grand princess, if you will—of Las Vegas's rebranding as a millennial destination was the 2013 launch of Britney Spears's Planet Hollywood "Piece of Me" residency on the Strip, which ended just this year after 248 shows and grossing more than $100 million in revenue. Spears's influence on Las Vegas is immeasurable. Since her debut, the city's live music scene has evolved from "He's a little bit country, I'm a little bit rock and roll" to a refresher course on the titans of 2000s pop music. The Backstreet Boys, Ricky Martin, Gwen Stefani and Jennifer Lopez have all followed suit with their own Vegas residencies, effectively scrubbing from public discourse any pervading associations the city once had with Wayne Newton and Siegfried & Roy.
The Venetian knows what it's doing. Ross is the type of mixologist who has cultivated a following, and in collaborating with him, the Venetian is making a strategic brand play.
Does future Oscar winner Lady Gaga setting up shop in Las Vegas make sense now? But while such top billings have been proven to draw in new crowds from across the world—after all, Britney is coming back in 2019, relocated to the Park MGM—live entertainment still accounts for only a handful of hours of busy time. And while willing to spend more on experiences, millennials are also more eager to spend on meaningful experiences—which has raised concerns within casino groups that gambling isn't appealing to younger generations.
Of note, none of the lounges and bars here rely heavily on manic LED screens, beat drops, headliners or happy hours to draw crowds. Rather, they're specifically designed to suggest exclusivity, experience and taking a moment away for human connection. (Yes, there are also many Insta-ready spaces carved out for creative direction.)