Las Vegas Strip rooms listed on Airbnb and no resort fees

A room at Elara booked for Monday through Airbnb is $79 with no resort fees. An almost identical room booked for Monday through the hotel costs $159.80, not including resort fees.

Owners of condos or timeshares at resorts on and around the Strip rent their homes on short-term rental sites like Airbnb and Vrbo. Their guests enjoy the same amenities of staying at a hotel in the resort hallway while avoiding some oft-maligned fees.

It’s technically allowed, despite Clark County’s difficult relationship with short-term rental providers. Some resorts are more supportive of the practice than others, even though the Strip has always viewed home-sharing platforms as a rival.

“It’s a thing, and it’s been a thing for a number of years,” according to Ted Newkirk, the founder of gambling and tourism advice website Access Vegas.

Rules, rules, rules

Clark County ordinances prohibit short-term rentals in residential areas.

But private landlords inside a Strip property can legally rent out their units, as long as they maintain a business license to operate the short-term rental, according to county spokesman Erik Pappa. The county enforces the ordinance through complaints.

Each Strip property also has its own rules on short-term rentals.

MGM Resorts International allows its condo owners at The Signature at MGM Grand and Vdara to rent their units through a corporate program or independently, the company said in a statement. The company added that independent tenants must maintain a Clark County business license and pay applicable taxes.

More than 1,600 units of The Signature are private out of 1,728, while only 148 of Vdara’s 1,495 units are private, the company said.

Westgate, although just east of the Strip, falls under the same set of county requirements that would allow short-term rentals. The property includes “just over 200” timeshare units, said Gordon Prouty, vice president of public and community relations.

Still, Westgate doesn’t offer a program for owners to rent their timeshare units to third parties, and to do otherwise would violate ownership policies, he said.

“However, the owner has the option of sending family and friends as ‘guests’ instead of the owner,” Prouty wrote in an email.

That didn’t stop someone from listing a boutique hotel room on Airbnb allegedly hosted by “Westgate Las Vegas Resort.” The ad featured a 400-square-foot room with a 60-inch TV, blackout curtains, a safe, and a mini-fridge.

“As in the heart as it gets, next to the Las Vegas Convention Center and just one block from the Strip,” the listing boasts. “Vegas-y in all the right ways, with a Benihana restaurant and the world’s largest race and sports book, plus an on-site monorail stop.”

The list remained in place on Friday. His host did not return a request for comment.

Other short-term rental listings advertised stays at the Jockey Club timeshare resort and the Palms Place hotel-condo. Representatives for each did not return requests for comment, nor did hosts listed for several short-term rentals at resorts on and around the Strip.

Airbnb declined to comment. Vrbo did not return requests for comment.

So what’s the difference?

Guests will enjoy the same amenities of a hotel stay as they would on a short-term rental stay.

“This is my personal apartment that I live in when I’m in Vegas, but it feels like a hotel room,” reads an Airbnb ad for the 540-square-foot Vdara Man’s Suite. , with a small kitchen, a king-size bed and living room. The listing notes several services available to guests, such as pools, concierge, spas and fitness centers, though the COVID-19 pandemic may affect availability.

But the phrase most likely to grab people’s attention: No resort fees.

Stays booked through Airbnb are often cheaper than those booked through the hotel itself, although the savings may be offset by other fees.

The Vdara listing advertises an all-inclusive price of $50 for a Tuesday stay, but after checking room availability, the Airbnb listing comes up with $87 in cleaning and service fees for a $137 stay. A similar room for the same night booked through Vdara would cost $187.08, including a $120 room rate, service charge and tax.

A Palms Place ad for a penthouse condo with a kitchenette, balcony, and Strip view advertises a $99 room rate with no resort fees for a late-December stay. Booking a similar room for the same date through the hotel’s website costs $219 per night with a $42.22 service charge. Yet the Airbnb listing also charges a $90 cleaning fee and a $27 service fee. Taxes included, the Airbnb room is $241 and the hotel room is $292.52.

“I wouldn’t give an inch”

It is possible to own a room inside a hotel thanks to a short-lived trend in the 2000s.

Many Strip or Strip-adjacent listings are relics of a bygone era: condos or timeshares in properties built during a mid-to-late 1990s condo boom, like Trump Tower, Elara, and the City Center Campus.

The Great Recession spelled the end of the boom and prompted some properties like The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, previously planned as a condo property, to turn to hotel operations, according to UNLV hospitality professor Mehmet Erdem. Back then, he said, short-term rental providers did not pose the same competitive threat to resorts as they do today.

“In an ideal world, they obviously wouldn’t give an inch to Airbnb,” Erdem said.

A Telsey Group Advisory report Resorts on the Strip may have lost as much as $150 million in revenue in 2018 as more visitors to Las Vegas book accommodation through Airbnb.

The president of a state resort advocacy group said the group is “monitoring the issue” of short-term rentals.

“Overall, strong enforcement is essential for effective regulation, as is a level playing field that regulates and taxes these properties in the same way as other highly regulated public lodging establishments,” said Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine said in a written statement.

Still, it’s unclear why a company like MGM would allow a resident to essentially run their own hospitality business. A company representative referred the questions to the associated owners’ associations. Messages left at Resident Service Desks for Palms Place, The Signature and Vdara were not returned.

Newkirk said a short-term rental guest is unlikely to throw money at the slots or “go rack up a $300 Wolfgang Puck contract.” However, he said, some luxury resorts may accept short-term tenants inside their buildings because they are willing to pay for a high-end hotel in the first place.

“I can’t think that’s something they’re very happy about,” Newkirk said of the stations, “if not for anything else, it’s competition, and now you have competition in your own building.”

In some ways, it might make sense for a hotel operator to quasi-collaborate with a competitor to make more money where they can, Erdem said.

MGM allowing private rentals at their properties can still generate revenue through food, drink, shopping, gambling or other means, Erdem said.

And ads on short-term rental platforms could also be free advertising.

MGM is a well-known brand, Erdem said, but it doesn’t have the same advertising reach for its rooms in the same way as a household brand like Airbnb.

“In a way,” he said, “Airbnb does the job of selling the room for them.”

Condos and timeshares make up just a fraction of the tens of thousands of rooms on the Strip, Erdem said. Fewer and fewer private owners are renting their places.

Short-term rentals weren’t a big enough threat to “topple hotels” before the pandemic, and the same is likely true for a post-pandemic economy, Newkirk said.

“Yet,” he said, “no one likes competition.”

Contact Mike Shoro at [email protected] or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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