259 – Welcome Back Las Vegas (video)

Yes! We have a new podcast up finally.  Episode #259, Welcome Back Las Vegas.  This is not about welcoming YOU back to Las Vegas. It’s more about a few things that are showing us that Las Vegas is coming back and getting ready to welcome you back in full force!  We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it doesn’t look like it’s another train!!

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Crime in Las Vegas?

First.  We need to talk about the supposed “rise” in crime.  Yes, crime in Las Vegas is up.  It’s up a whopping 4%!  That’s it.  About what you get in other cities of almost 3 million people.  The reason for the crime wave being blasted across the world news is that its Vegas!  They like to talk about Vegas and without all the crowds, you are seeing the dreads of humanity you normally didn’t see because you were too busy looking at all the shiny lights and being moved along by all the people on the streets.

Nothing has really changed in that area, you just need to be aware of your surroundings and don’t let your guard down. Just like you would be walking the streets of any other major city! Here, the crowds are gone so people who come here are taking in all the sights they normally can’t see because of the crowds and enjoying the open spaces. So the criminals are easier to spot and get into trouble…
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The criminals are in some ways like the rest of us. They are tired of being locked up in our homes.  They are unemployed, frustrated, and looking for some release.  They have a chance to escape their captivity in Arizona or California, and like you and me, you want to come to Las Vegas for some action.  Wanting to get out, get some movement going, and finding other people to associate with. so they, unfortunately, they hit Las Vegas!

Law Enforcement, Metro, as well as hotel security is being extra vigilant right now. But the resorts are not back to full staff yet, so things are a little more obvious than they were before. The media is looking for some bad news to report and they are finding the pickings a little slim if they want to stay away from politics.  Good or bad, Las Vegas always makes a great headline..

Elvis Returns!

Maybe not the real Elvis.  However, Big Elvis, aka Pete Vallee, is pretty close to the original!  Big Elvis is back and that’s the true sign that life on the Strip is getting back to whatever the new normal will be.  The first regular musical show to reopen and he is back at the Piano Bar at Harrah’s.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!

Circa Comes to Life

The all-new resort opens October 28 in Downtown las Vegas!  Adults Only, six pools open all year long! The world’s largest sportsbook!  And of course, home to Vegas Vickie!

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Other Links


The Birth of The Vegas Tourist


The Vegas Tourist?

One of the questions I get is “What was the idea behind starting this website and podcast?

The easy answer is that as a Las Vegas chauffeur, I got tired of battling against the Las Vegas propaganda machine and wanted to give those traveling here, a real look at what is the Las Vegas tourist scene.

An insiders look behind the curtain on how this town really operates and what is really going on. Then it kind of expanded and changed as I switched from being a Las Vegas chauffeur to be a tour director.

The one thing that has not changed in all these years is my love for not only the history of this town but for the people who have come here and made something out of it… The business side of what makes Las Vegas famous can be as exciting for me as the tourist side.  I love telling people about the who, what, why, and where of not only Las Vegas, but the entire southwestern United States. “Las Vegas and Beyond”
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Out of Frustration, Comes Brilliance?

I moved here from Minnesota in 2001. Las Vegas was in the tail end of its last major boom.  Over 5,000 families were moving here every month and only 3,000 were moving out.  Every month we had 2,000 more people living here than we did at the end of the previous month. After 100 years of booms and busts, Las Vegas finally hit the one million mark for the population.  Five years later we hit the two million mark.  We literally doubled our population in five years and it wasn’t slowing down.

The daily occupancy rate for any hotel in the nation in 2001 was about 55% on a good day.  Here, 95% occupancy was considered a bad day!  We were building and adding hotel rooms as fast as we could get the permits printed.

There was something here for just about everybody. From the twenty-five cent roulette at the Klondike to the High Limit Poker rooms at the Bellagio and the Venetian.  From the ninety-nine cent shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate to the three hundred dollar dinner, (minus the eight hundred dollar bottle of wine you watched the beautiful “wine angel” working on a pulley system on the wine tower, get for you) at Aureole in the Mandalay Bay.

Moving here?  In 2001, about 90% of all jobs here were tourism-related positions.  If you showed up here on Monday morning looking for work, there was a pretty good chance you could have a good-paying job by Monday afternoon. It most likely wasn’t what you had a degree in or what you were doing before, but it would be a good job sometimes with benefits and a flexible schedule.  Many people I knew then had several jobs.  The keyword being “flexible”. If you expecting Monday to Friday, 9-5 with weekends off, you were laughed out of the office. Literally.

On the other side to that “flexibility” it was often easy to work a schedule around other things. You were often off on days other people were working.  We could travel midweek pretty cheap!  Living here, the stores and support services off the tourist corridor, worked with our hours. Walmarts open 24 hours seven days a week, dentist offices open until 9 pm. Last call in the bar? No such thing.

The first question you were often asked in the job interview was “will you show up when scheduled?” If you answered “Yes”, they were already filling out your time card and figuring out what locker to give you.

There was one catch when moving here.  Moving here, you needed to understand that you did not move into a new state, you moved into a different universe.  You will hear me say this a lot and its true; Las Vegas operates in its own little universe. Unlike any other city, state, or country you have been in.  Vegas is nothing like where you came from. If you don’t understand that, it will eat you up and spit you out really quickly.  You will not survive here.
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Minnesota Nice 

For me, I had a little problem getting into the whole Las Vegas tourism culture.  I was born with a deformed gene. Its called the “Minnesota Nice” gene. I can’t lie to people for the sake of making a buck and I don’t like people who do that to me.  I swear that if I could neutralize that gene living here, I would either be a multi-millionaire or buried 8 miles out and six feet under… Nothing in-between.

I loved the town. Las Vegas was a really fun city and for me, it held a certain vibe I couldn’t get anywhere else.  But the way it operated, the behind the scenes part of what made the bright lights sparkle, started to rub on me and went against my Minnesota Nice morals(?). The more I worked the Strip, the more I developed a love/hate relationship with the universe of Las Vegas.

One thing I learned talking to the old-timers here, Las Vegas, like the state it sits in, was created by corruption and that corruption, the good and the bad of it all is always evolving. Staying the same, yet in many ways changing with the times. What you see here is not always what is real.  Steve Wynn named his first mega-resort on the Las Vegas Strip correctly.  The Mirage!

Why This Website?

Like I said at the beginning, the idea for this website and podcast was born out of frustration. As a chauffeur, I was always irritated when I picked up a guest outside one of a resort and as we drove to their hotel, they complained about the time and money they wasted on a horrible show that the reviewer said: “The best I have seen all year!”.  To them, the reviewer was 1000% wrong and they had just wasted one night out of their three-night stay, seeing a horrible show.  (average stay in Las Vegas is three nights).

I would get frustrated when I heard those stories.  I felt bad for my guests.  You, the Vegas tourist (get it?), took time out of your busy lives to travel to Las Vegas. You spent a lot of money and time planning your trip. You were wanting to have a good time when you did get here. You wanted to leave the real world behind and escape into the fairytale land of Las Vegas. You wanted to drink too much, eat too much, party too much, and gamble responsibly.  Not spend time in a theater seeing a show that was nothing like you were expecting and you based your decision to buy tickets on what many would assume was an unbiased “professional” reviewer.

Unfortunately, I heard a lot of bad stories all because the guest didn’t know how Las Vegas tourism really worked.  So I wanted to counter that narrative or at least give another viewpoint to what was being pushed by the modern version of the Las Vegas propaganda machine. (a website maybe?)

I would ask my guests which reviewer did they read?  They would tell me and I would smile.  Then I would explain to them why the review they read was what it was.  At the time, the people still relied on major newspapers, TV and radio as their main sources of information. There was no  Yelp.com. The explanation I gave was usually well received and helped in my tip as they would thank me for my honesty and that they wished they talked to me first!
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Here’s How The Vegas Media World Works

Here in Las Vegas, we have two main newspapers:  the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun.  Meaning we had two primary “show reviewers” and gossip columnists. Because they were the big dogs in the world of Las Vegas media, their reviews held a lot of power over the success or failure of a new Las Vegas production. And each reviewer had different criteria for how they reviewed a show. What the uninformed reader didn’t know was that neither one based too much of their reviews on the actual show.

When a show is to open on the Strip, they would hold a media event. The show on that night was not open to the general public, or if it was, the media and other invitees would have the front row seats. These people were not only the media people (local, national, international) but the city’s entertainment VIPs, the doormen, concierges, and anyone else seriously involved in the selling or promotion of the show tickets around town.

At the media event prior to the show, you usually got to meet the primary cast, hear some words from the show’s director or producer, be able to interview the people behind the production, etc, etc…. And you were usually served complimentary food and beverage.

Being a chauffeur, like cab drivers and such, I was considered an important marketing person for these shows, thus, “freebies”!!  So having been to many of these events, I started to notice why the published reviews were how they were.  Speaking to others at these events, I would hear the same or similar comments.  Of course, always “off the record”.

Here is what I learned. One reviewer based a lot of his opinions about the show on what food was served at the media event.  The other reviewer would base part of his review on how well he was served a certain brand of drinks at the media event by a certain flavor of a young cocktail waitress. These points were not highlighted in the review itself, but it set the mood and tone for what they were going to write.  Bad time at the media event meant a bad review of the show.  A good time at the media event meant a good show review.

So to sum it all up, for all their glorious words of praise or their words of scorn about the show, the cast, or how the show was put together, the review was really based on how or what they were served at the media event before they were escorted to their front row or box seats. Or as another media type joked to me one time: You could put a (heavily overweight) lady wearing nothing but a tutu reading the Las Vegas phone book in french, standing on a dark stage, and if you did your media event right, both of these people would give the show a five-star “best new show of the decade” review!

My Frustration

So why would they not review the show for the quality of the show? Easy answer. Follow the money.  In 2001, when I started chauffeuring here, the Stip was controlled by five different companies.  No one resort company controlled more than 25% of the market.  You had the MGM competing with Mandalay Bay competing with The Wynn competing with… You get the picture…

By 2005, you had the MGM owning 55% of the Strip and Caesars owning 40% of the Strip. The other 5% were The Wynn, The Venetian, etc… Now, as a local media company, newspaper, or TV station, you survive by selling local advertising.  Selling advertising as a media company when your town is controlled by only two companies means you will everything in your powers to make sure you do not print anything that offends anyone in the management of these two companies!

So when a new show opened in a resort and it sucked, the review will never really say it sucked. Even when the Chris Angel debacle opened at the Luxor in 2008, they never really said the show sucked!  They danced around it in so many different ways, saying everything they could but “it sucked”! BTW, It Sucked!!

If they say anything bad about something the resort spent millions of dollars on, that resort stops advertising with your company for a while.  So you dance around it and claim that it was good even if it was bad.  But not in those exact words.

If being a Las Vegas local and you knew something bad happened on the Strip, you had to read the LA Times to know what happened!

So I needed to say something.  I needed a place to let off my frustrations. A place to let others know what real people living and working in Las Vegas felt about what to see, do, and experience while visiting here and traveling around here.  Talking with another chauffeur who was making a great side business marketing Las Vegas weddings on the Internet, he told me to start a website. With the warning that if I want any of the money from the two golden gooses, meaning Las Vegas casino advertising money, I needed to kiss the golden ring of the marketing people over at MGM and Caesars marketing people.  Yea, that ain’t going to happen!!

That’s It! I will start a website talking about Las Vegas tourism and beyond!  So if I am going to build a website where I talk about Las Vegas tourism, what do I call it? Who is it for?  Hmmm…..

The Vegas Tourist was Born

Looking at the registration, I registered the domain name TheVegasTourist.com on July 4, 2006.  Why that name?

Because my first choice for a domain name, VegasTourist.com was already taken.  That domain was basically a website showing a bunch of affiliate links for Las Vegas and other cities’ hotels and shows. No real content. Wanting that name and without much more thought or reason behind it, I added the word “the” to the domain name and it worked.  Looking back, I like this name better than what I first wanted!  Fate!

Ironically, after a few months of operation and publishing some content as well as a Podcast, I was at a networking event and was talking with a group of people.  One of the men huddled in the group was raving about his new “Vegas” website and telling the others how wonderful it is and why they need to check it out and to advertise with him.

Someone asked him the name of his website and he told them  “That’s the best part, its really easy to remember.  It’s the Vegas Tourist Dot Com” .  As others were writing it down, he had to clarify that the word “the”is not part of the domain name. Causing several to ask what happens if they typed in “The Vegas Tourist Dot com”?  I smiled and said “You get my website” and I walked away smiling!!  I knew I had the better name!


#257 Seeing Las Vegas from the sky!

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The Vegas Tourist Podcast #257

On today’s Podcast, Mark is joined by his lovely wife Debbie. Together they recount their latest Las Vegas adventure. A photoshoot with a good friend and Las Vegas Photographer, Tom Donoghue.

This was one of those amazing little events that just kind of happens when you hang around some people too long!  Las Vegas Photographer, Tom Donoghue asked if Debbie and I wanted to join him on an upcoming photoshoot? This one was of the Las Vegas Strip and Downtown. As he needed to get updated images of some of the new projects in town for his clients.

The kicker was that we would be shooting from a Maverick Helicopter!!  The objective was to shoot from above, the new Circa Resort in Downtown Las Vegas, the Resorts World Resort on the Las Vegas Strip, and of course, the new $2 billion Allegiant Stadium. Plus whatever else came into the viewfinders!

Maverick Helicopter photo shoot of las vegas

Photo: Tom Donoghue @photomanlv

The Podcast audio is available here…


Maverick Helicopter in Las Vegas
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The Adventure Begins

Actually, the adventure started out of a conversation that happened while I was helping Tom try to recover some images from some crashed hard drives (Back Up Your Hard Dives!) and talking about all the changes going on on the Strip and in Downtown. The new Resorts World, the  Elon Muck Boring Company building “The Loop” under the convention center, the new Circa Resort in Downtown Las Vegas etc…

Then a few days later, Tom called to tell me that he needed to do a photo shoot for his clients needing the updates of the new resorts.  So he invited Debbie and me to go along. This is not something you say “NO ” to.  The last time we were invited was in 2017 when he needed to do some sky shots for the National Final Rodeo in 2017. And that was a blast!

So I pieced together a shot list I wanted:

    • Area 51 Jets
    • Empty Strip. you can almost count the cars!
    • The MSG Sphere
    • Convention Center Boring Loop
    • Bellagio Fountains from above
    • Circa Downtown Las Vegas
    • Resorts World Updates
allegiant stadium las vegas

Photo: Tom Donoghue @photoman


Hit the “Play Button for the video or the audio and hear our story of the entire adventure!

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Links Mentioned in Podcast

Take a Las Vegas city tour with Maverick Helicopters - Click Here

254 New Year, New Views, New Ideas

It’s a New Year and time to break out the new ideas. Including the podcast!! Today I am joined again by my wife and business partner, Mis Debbie! Talking about a range of topics focusing on Las Vegas and the New Year. Some new ideas for the show as well as my usual commentary and personal opinions about Las Vegas tourism.

  • It’s been almost a year since the last time we sat behind the microphones. What caused the long silence and the new source of inspiration.
  • Future episodes at the Boulder City Company Store  
  • Debbie’s favorite place for lunch: Boulder Pitstop
  • Our upcoming adventure to the Winter 4X4 Jamboree 
  • Mark’s view on the sale of Circus Circus to Phil Ruffin
  • Clarifying Mark’s opinion on the Hard Rock, soon to be Virgin Hotel, future

Other Links


241 Marvel Avenger Station and Other Tour Tidbits

Welcome back to The Vegas Tourist Podcast episode 241.  Mark and Debbie catch up on a few Vegas Tourist things, then get into their review of the new Marvel Avenger Stations Attraction at Treasure Island.

Mark’s guest this week is Las Vegas Territory member Sheryl Capil, Marketing Manager for the Stan Lee inspired interactive adventure known as Marvel Avenger Station.

Vegas Tourist Tidbits include;

  • It’s getting cold in Vegas
  • Walking Historic Railroad Tunnels with Debbie and the kids (our dogs)
  • Jess Lockwood New PBR 2017 World Champion!
  • Rail Explorers coming to Boulder City!
  • Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon
  • Caesars new parking fees for everyone
  • Our new Vegas Deals Page
  • NHL Team Rocks
  • New NFR Dates December 7 to 16
  • Death Valley Updates
  • Marvel Station adventure is really Interactive and awesome for all ages!!


Marvel Avenger S.T.A.T.I.O.N

Mission Brief
To delve into the history, science, engineering, genetics, technology and profiles of Captain America, Hulk, Thor and Iron Man. Your goal: To interactively assemble case files on each of the characters and move on to become qualified members of the AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N. If you think you have what it takes. If you think you can be something more…

ENLIST NOW and start your mission!

  • Stan Lee, the creator of the popular Marvel Superheros is 94!!


Sheryl Capil’s Vegas Tourist Tips

3 Things Every Vegas Tourist Should Do or See

  • Check out the Suburbs.  Vegas is about more than the Strip!
  • Go Shopping!!
  • Dine in a nice Vegas restaurant

Vegas Hidden Gem: Neon Boneyard

Favorite Vegas Show(s):  Ka’

Favorite Vegas Movie:  Oceans Eleven (2001)


Want More Information on Sheryl Capil and Station Attraction?

Website: Marvel’s Station Attraction

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** This week’s Guest Interview is Courtesy of  **