Vegas has come a long way, baby. No longer a Mecca for gambling and other less licit activities, the city has become synonymous with family fun, world-class dining, and big-name entertainment.
In the process, the value proposition has evolved as well. When gambling was the city’s primary economic engine, the hotels happily courted chance-takers with $5 prime rib dinners, $19-a-night rooms, and complimentary parking. Vegas visits were cheap trips, because much of the cost of travel was subsidized by gamblers’ losses.
No more. Today, Vegas hotel rates are no bargain, especially when the mandatory “resort fees,” typically around $30 a night, are factored in. Dining on the cheap means downgrading to a Happy Meal. And the end of free parking is less than a month away.
Beginning on June 6, MGM Resorts International will begin charging as much as $10 for self-parking, and up to $18 for valet parking, at its 14 Las Vegas hotels (ARIA, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, New York-New York, and several others).
In a recent email sent to members of the company’s M life Rewards program, MGM’s vice president of loyalty marketing rationalized the new fees thusly:
MGM Resorts International is taking steps to implement a $90 million parking strategy to expand parking availability, implement technology upgrades and reduce the hassle and frustration resulting from outdated and inefficient facilities. In order to fund these investments—and the ongoing maintenance and capital improvements of our parking facilities—we will be instituting fees for self- and valet parking.
Outdated and inefficient facilities? I spent several days this year at MGM’s Luxor hotel, arriving and departing at peak times over a holiday weekend, and the free parking facilities worked just fine. No hassle, no frustration. Which leads me to wonder: Of that $90 million, how much will be spent on simply converting facilities to accommodate paid parking, adding meters and ticket kiosks and toll booths and the like?
M life Rewards members who have earned Pearl status or above will be able to self-park for free; members with Gold status and above can valet park for free. But with points expiring after just six months of inactivity for entry-level members, M life is not a program designed to reward infrequent Las Vegas visitors. They—most of us, that is—will pay to park.
It’s the new normal, baby.
Reader Reality Check
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.