The chief executive of the world's biggest hotel came to town Wednesday, looking for business. With 5,005 rooms to fill, the MGM Grand will be what Larry J. Woolf calls a "hungry hotel."
It opens Dec. 18 on the Las Vegas Strip, ahead of schedule and within the $1 billion budget. The development is awash in superlatives: At 171,500 square feet, its casino will be the biggest in the world; 33 acres of the complex will contain the city's first theme park; and it's the biggest construction project in Nevada's history.
Two other casino firms also had booths at this week's meeting of the American Society of Travel Agents. But only MGM sent its top people here and made a luncheon pitch at Tony's. Dan Shumny, who's in charge of sales, said 55-60 percent of MGM's business will be sent by travel agents.
While most of the country is trying to absorb excess hotel capacity that lingers from the overbuilding of the 1980s, Las Vegas is increasing its inventory of 75,000 rooms by 14 percent. MGM Grand is the finale to a triumvirate of new mega-resorts, after next month's debut of Circus Circus's Luxor and Mirage Resort's Treasure Island.
"We can't afford to be cavalier just because the history of Las Vegas is good and we think our property is better than anybody else's," Woolf said. "We're making sure we're known out there."
But he said MGM Grand is about 80 percent booked for its first two years, and he has no doubts about the ability of Las Vegas to fill hotel rooms.
"The history of Las Vegas is that it's been constantly underbuilt since the 1940s and it never caught up," Woolf said. Occupancy has never dipped below 80 percent, he added. That's a figure that hoteliers in cities like St. …