Just a month from now, the city of Las Vegas will embark on yet another mammoth, yearlong increase in the number of its hotel rooms, currently totaling 105,000 (the largest hotel capacity of any city on Earth).
The new surge gets underway on Oct. 15, when the deluxe, 36-story Bellagio opens with 3,000 rooms and too many waterfalls and gardens to count. Three months later, the 3,700-room Mandalay Bay opens alongside a 10-acre tropical lagoon. In April 1999, 3,000 rooms of the eventual 6,000 units of the Venetian Resort will be available for occupancy, amid gondolas, canals and 30 restaurants.
And around the same time--or two or three months thereafter--replicas now nearing completion of the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Paris Opera House and Eiffel Tower will herald the opening of the 2,900-room Paris Casino Resort, a shameless imitation of the approach that has made such a success of the hotel-casino called New York New York.
Even before this wave of new hotel construction, travel professionals were talking of a softness they glimpsed in Las Vegas' occupancy rates. The quick addition of 12,000 more rooms can be expected to set off unprecedented price competition among the older hotels--and therefore major opportunities for the bargain-hunter.
You couldn't choose a better time than the coming months.
Sleeping cheaply. As always, your timing will remain all-important. Cost-conscious visitors should stay away from peak periods--holidays, conventions such as Comdex (November) and the Consumer Electronics Show (January), and major events such as the Super Bowl or championship boxing matches.
For the best deals, go in December, July or August. Also avoid weekends when possible; weekday hotel stays run an average of only $33 per night (and can drop as low as $25 in July and December).
The lowest rates can usually be found at the Plaza, (800) 634-6575, downtown, the Sahara, (800) 634-6666, and Vacation Village, (800) 658-5000, a little bargain gem at the extreme south end of the Strip.
But even high-end hotels can yield remarkably low rates on weekdays in slow periods--$49 at the MGM Grand, (800) 929-1111, and Luxor, (800) 288-1000, for example, or $39 at the Golden Nugget, (800) 634-3454, or Monte Carlo, (800) 311-8999.
Fill 'er up. One other bargain that Vegas is famous for throughout the year is food.
To take optimum advantage of the deals, keep an eye out for free-breakfast and other dining coupons, avoid the big casinos' coffee shops and hit the all-you-can-eat buffets (and make lunch your main meal, since it costs less than dinner and has pretty much the same fare).
The largest selection can be found at the Rio, (800) 613-4746, where an all-you-can-eat breakfast goes for $6.95, lunch for $8.95 and dinner for $10.95.
Texas Station, (800) 654-8804, does ethnic and higher-class fare nicely from $3.99 (breakfast) to $8.99 (dinner).
The Fiesta, (800) 731-7333, is known for its fire-pit barbecue and serve-yourself coffee bar, with prices ranging from $3.99 to $8.99.
Main Street Station, (800) 465-0711, is newer and less extensive but does boast some dishes that are exotic by Vegas standards, such as kimchi salad and grilled portabello mushrooms, for $4.99 to $8.99.