Las Vegas is first and foremost a casino destination, but Sin City is also much more than that. These days the massive casinos are not just filled with blackjack tables and slots; they have world-class restaurants headed by celebrity chefs, a variety of shows, glitzy nightclubs, miles of retail — and even a way to help people be good. Or, more exactly, to be healthy.
City leaders are getting behind an effort to make Vegas a top destination for wellness vacations and for medical tourism.
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Surprising? Perhaps. But the health and wellness idea makes more sense than you might think.
First of all, the hotel infrastructure is already in place. Anyone coming for medical treatment doesn't have to worry about finding a place to stay.
And Las Vegas is already a major spa destination. Dozens of world-class spas and health and beauty facilities are already running in the city. Many of these are in resorts, but you don't have to be a guest at a particular venue to use the spa.
Moving beyond Sin City
The city and the state have drafted a plan to build health and wellness into Las Vegas's image. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance and UNLV are all involved. A group called Las Vegas Heals is trying to make sure that there will be enough trained medical personnel in the city to staff the new facilities when these plans come to fruition.
The lack of qualified personnel is probably the biggest stumbling block. Las Vegas has grown tremendously in recent years and the current crop of medical professionals are overworked. A new UNLV medical school will open in 2017. It will train medical professionals while also teaching a hospitality mindset that will be advantageous for the kind of medical tourism services that the city hopes to develop.
Area hospitals and medical facilities will be undergoing upgrades and expansions, and new developments have already broken ground. A large complex called Union Village will be a full "health city" in suburban Henderson. The village will have a hospital and other health clinics and service providers. Everything will work together so that people can move from place to place and get customized treatment without jumping through the usual insurance, payment and information-sharing hoops.
A healthier version of Las Vegas ... but still Las Vegas
Of course, this is still Las Vegas, and people who come here, even if they don't want to overindulge, want some sort of Sin City experience. Union Village will have hotels, restaurants, malls, shops and even entertainment options.
There may be some positive side effects to the medical tourism effort. Las Vegas is a huge destination for conventions. With an increased awareness about its wellness facilities, more conventions in the medical and health industries may consider Las Vegas more seriously.
Also, the wellness features already in place will enjoy a higher profile. For example, few people know that one of the most famous venues on the Strip, the MGM Grand, has 170 wellness-themed suites that have high-tech health features in the rooms like vitamin C-infused showers and dawn simulator alarm clocks. A big part of the city's wellness initiative is getting the word out that these services exist.
Las Vegas will always be a destination for fun and frivolity. With such a strong hospitality infrastructure, it could also become a niche destination for living well.