Effect of Omicron Variant on Las Vegas Travel Worries Tourism Leaders


Local and national tourism leaders are concerned about how the COVID-19 omicron variant could affect tourism so soon after the United States opened its borders to restart international travel.

The World Health Organization called the omicron a “variant of concern” last week.

Most believe it may be too early to say whether the variant President Joe Biden has called “cause for concern, not cause for panic” would prevent people from arriving in Las Vegas for events like this. than CES.

Several countries joined the United States on Monday in restricting travel from eight “high-risk” African countries. Restrictions have been added for South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Non-stop flights are not offered from any of these countries to Las Vegas, but several airlines offer connecting services.

Health experts recommend that passengers who have traveled to or through these countries in the past 14 days undergo 14 days of quarantine and COVID testing.

“As with the delta variant, the impacts of omicron will be difficult to predict,” said Amanda Bellarmino, assistant professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at UNLV.

“The closure of African countries may not have a direct impact on Las Vegas since we just reopened to international tourism, however, the ripple effect may have an impact,” she said. . “Until we know the seriousness of omicron and its ability to spread, we will be uncertain about its impacts. In the short term, it could increase our domestic tourism, as people fear further closures. in the long run, I think it could further delay international travel. ”

A representative from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority agreed that more detail is needed to assess a result.

“Until there is more known and understood by medical experts, it is too early to tell,” said Lori Nelson-Kraft, senior vice president of communications for LVCVA.

The Washington-based US Travel Association has called on Biden to reconsider reinstating country-specific entry bans in the short term and said higher vaccination rates are the answer to the problem.

“COVID variants are concerning, but the border closures have not prevented their presence in the United States as vaccinations have proven to be incredibly durable,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and health. US Travel Association policies. “This is why the US travel industry is a strong advocate of the idea that everyone gets vaccinated.

“With a vaccine and testing requirement in place to enter the United States, we continue to believe that assessing an individual’s risk and health status is the best way to accommodate qualified international travelers. in the United States, ”she said.

CES in advance

The next major Las Vegas event involving an international audience is CES, the annual consumer electronics show held at several convention centers around the city. According to the sponsoring Consumer Technology Association, about 10 percent of the 170,000 CES attendees typically come from foreign countries.

The four-day event, open to consumer electronics professionals, begins January 5, but media representatives will be arriving a few days earlier. The event shouldn’t be as big as in previous years.

A representative of the association did not respond to requests for comment. The association said it would respect local mask-wearing policies, which means it could ask to operate without them. He said he would clarify whether CES attendees would be required to wear masks during the event in December.

Proof of vaccination will be required for admission, chairs will be set up to ensure social distancing during meetings and presentations, and hand sanitizing stations are provided at all sites.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at [email protected] or 702-477-3893. To follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.


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