This image was taken in 2008. This place looks very different now 🙂
Finally… I returned yesterday from the last of series of trips that took me to four (or maybe three and a half, depending how you count) continents in about three weeks. I went to Ft. Lauderdale (that’s North America), Panama (that’s Middle America, that is why half continent), Europe (Poland, Austria) and finally Macau (Asia). All of those were business trips, but as always, my wife asked me: honey, how was your trip? What did you see? (I am not mentioning the obvious, silent question: what did you bring me?)
Honey, I saw inside of our office in Ft. Lauderdale and couple of houses there from the inside. I managed to have lunch at nice restaurant at the edge of the channel, where on its shores lied some of the most beautiful and expensive houses I ever seen. I saw there a guy and his wife we have met in South Africa, isn’t world a small place? I managed to have one boat trip to the ocean and did some shopping. I managed to buy you wrong size clothes, as usual… although I also got you couple of blouses of the right size 🙂 I saw – or experienced – humidity and poverty, electricity shortages and… big butts of girls enlarging them for us, men, for some reason. I saw work, and few hotel rooms. And couple of restaurants in between. Maybe one or two parties, with the same people as always, where we drunk same drinks as we usually do. No adventures, good or bad, except maybe that the whole trip was an adventure. I spoke to couple of friends I haven’t seen since my last trip to that area. I met some new people, where most I will possibly forget, since we will unlikely have any reason to stay in touch. I haven’t had a chance to explore… but that is not what I was sent there for. That’s about it, honey…
After such speech, my wife – or anyone I tell it to – seems to be disappointed. Not believing, that after being in all those places, all you can bring back are some iPhone shots and few sentences. But that is, in many cases, the reality of business travel. I am just glad that it’s over, but I am grateful that I could do it. Despite all the tight schedule and work loaded days, I observed, lived, experienced. And that all adds to the knowledge I have. I am richer, but oh, soooo tired… 🙂
After countless hours I came back from Las Vegas yesterday night. I have been travelling to that city for the last ten or more years, pretty much same time every year. I liked Las Vegas only the first time I went there, each time after that my disappointment with that city grew. Now, I pretty much cannot stand it.
In those years I followed changes Vegas was going through and now I can see that the biggest change is that Vegas has forgotten what made it great all those years ago. People, or to be more exact, visitors. Tourists. We did. We have been treated like customers, pampered, awed and surprised by the attractions Vegas had to offer. Casinos, shows, architecture, rides, clubs – all this was for us to experience and wonder at.
The revenue was mostly coming in from casinos, then from entertainment, hotels and food. Now, casinos lost their top spot in terms of revenue. Food and accommodation took over, which means, that cheap breakfast is the thing of the past. The prices anywhere near the strip have become exorbitant, loosing all relation to value offered. Smart advertising is targeted at convincing us that we are being given the best, when in reality we are being simply squeezed like lemons to get rid of our cash as soon as possible, to be sent home with a bewildered wonderment and a question: did we really had that promised good time? I think that more often than not we are convincing ourselves that yes, we did. But will we come back? Unlikely, if we don’t have to, forced by friends or our jobs.
There is a reason for that rampant robbery under disguise of entertainment. World casino market has become very competitive, and Vegas lost its top spot in terms of being the greatest gambling destination. Macau, Singapore, even the US states offer the same if not better. Vegas reacted not by adding value but in adding more fancy architecture, more casinos, more fantastic shows, which meant more debt and need to get it all back quicker. Casinos switched (at least on machines, the most mass market) to lower payback percentages, taking cash out of our pockets quicker. People lost their gaming budgets quicker and were left to wonder around the strip. So casinos increased prices for the rooms, making them adjustable to demand, and increased prices for food, alcohol, entry fees and all that we need when we are there, even internet access. If we are not playing the tables, we have the worst deal ever in Vegas.
How long can this go on, before the call and fame of Vegas will die? Not very long, for the same reasons I mentioned above. We have other places to go to. Cheaper, better, with friendlier folk and service. I left with a bad taste in my mouth, even though I was there on an expense account. I can only imagine what a “normal” tourist has to feel. For me, Vegas is in the process of committing suicide.
As every year, Macau managed to kick my butt. I am totally exhausted, suffering from cold, and simply tired. But the place is great – full of suspense, secrets and strange mix of Chinese traditions, American complexes of size and European flair. Here are some images from Grand Hyatt and Mezze 9 restaurant on its 3rd floor:
More about the hotel can be found here. Its design is truly spectacular, I am happy that I had a chance to be there.