Vegas resorts prepare for influx of Asian visitors amid Wuhan flu fears

Chinese New Year celebration
Decorations for Chinese New Year -- the Year of the Monkey -- fill the Palazzo Waterfall Atrium on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. (CREDIT: Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau)
Chinese New Year celebration
Decorations for Chinese New Year — the Year of the Monkey — fill the Palazzo Waterfall Atrium on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. (CREDIT: Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau)

With millions of people quarantined in Chinese cities, Lunar New Year celebrations canceled in metropolitan areas throughout China, and Twitter ablaze with alarming videos of patients and health care workers collapsing on Wuhan streets and in hospitals,  Las Vegas is preparing to welcome the Year of the Rat and an influx of Asian tourists this weekend.  

“Our leadership teams in the U.S. and Asia are working closely with local officials and taking the appropriate steps to protect our team members and guests,” said Ron Reese of Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas, as well as resorts in Macau and Singapore. “We are prepared to follow any additional protocols or guidance as they are made available.”

“In Macao some front line employees are being asked to wear masks and there are body temperature machines at points of entry to Macao as well within the resorts,” he said. 

No Chinese New Year events at Sands’ Las Vegas properties have been canceled.  

“We have not canceled anything in Las Vegas,” says MGM Resorts International spokeswoman Debra DeShong, adding the company is closely monitoring the situation in Macau.  

“We will proactively cooperate with the guidelines announced by the Macau Government and carry out respective measures to protect our guests and team members,” she said via email, noting she believed the city of Macau canceled celebrations.  

Wynn Resorts, which owns Wynn Macau, did not respond to requests for information about its scheduled Chinese New Year events in Las Vegas and abroad. 

Some 20 million people have been quarantined in and around Wuhan because of the outbreak, according to news reports.  

The World Health Organization declined to declare the outbreak an international health emergency.

Asia is the fifth-largest feeder market of international tourists to Las Vegas, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, behind Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Australia.  

“In 2018, Las Vegas welcomed 236,970 visitors from China,” says Amanda Peters of the LVCVA. 

This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced all passengers bound for the U.S. from Wuhan would be routed through one of five major airports with screening systems in place, but as of Thursday, no such system had been implemented, reports Time, and with a quarantine in place, may never be.

McCarran International Airport is not taking any measures to screen passengers from Asia. 

“The CDC determines at which airports screening is needed, and where deemed necessary public health officials conduct the screening activity,” spokesman Joe Rajchel said via email. “At this time, we have not been advised that screening will take place at McCarran.”

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, a grandson, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.