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July 31, 2015

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Looking in on: Gaming:

Aiming to avoid irritating guests, Cosmo won’t charge resort fees

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The Cosmopolitan.

The Strip’s newest resort has a provocative ad campaign and artsy attractions to distinguish it from some of its competitors. But there’s a post-recession element behind the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ glam rock facade: A contrarian decision to not charge hotel guests resort fees, which are bundled charges for amenities such as the gym, local phone calls and the morning paper. Such fees, which have spread across the hotel industry, must be disclosed up front and are mandatory for guests staying at properties that charge them.

“I’ve been playing around in that (resort fee) arena for 15 years,” veteran hotelier and Cosmopolitan CEO John Unwin said in a recent interview. Though hotels often tack on resort fees to offset plummeting hotel rates, “we’re not doing that because people don’t like it,” Unwin said.

Hoping to attract customers who will lounge in the resort’s public areas and dabble with its surrounding restaurant and retail offerings, Cosmopolitan also doesn’t charge for Wi-Fi access, which is available throughout the resort.

“I think that will go away — outside of Vegas it’s going away,” Unwin said of wireless access charges. “People find it irritating to pay $15 to use their computers.”

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U.S. Green Building Council plaques recognizing LEED Gold status of the CityCenter buildings are displayed outside Aria at CityCenter in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009.

MGM Resorts spent a premium on CityCenter to incorporate eco-friendly features into its design, citing the growing cultural importance and cost-saving business imperative of being green.

The $8.5 billion project has underperformed in the downturn. But the company has begun retrofitting its other Las Vegas hotels with energy-saving methods and technology cultivated at CityCenter. They are expected to yield significant savings in operating costs at older properties, executives said at the Global Gaming Expo last month.

CityCenter’s eco-friendly design earned the project six LEED gold certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council and the distinction of being the world’s largest green-certified development.

It’s a big selling point for convention planners who typically ask whether the building has a “green” certification before they decide to book rooms and meeting space, said Paul Berry, vice president of hotel operations for CityCenter’s Aria resort.

“They want to come to a place they feel good about,” he said.

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Jan Jones

Jan Jones

While hotels across town have been forced to lay off workers and reduce services in the bad economy, Caesars Entertainment says it’s also working to cut costs in less painful ways.

Last year the company adopted a program created by Toyota for use in assembly line manufacturing. Caesars adapted the “LEAN” program for repetitive tasks in the hotel business by allowing line employees to propose adjustments in their work space that increase efficiency. Employees suggest changes most helpful to them rather than having the changes imposed by management, said Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government relations.

These changes — as simple as moving toaster ovens closer to where meals are prepared so food is served faster and is hotter when it arrives — are saving the company money while improving service and morale, Jones said.

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