Q&A: Howard Lefkowitz, Vegas.com
November 22, 2002
By Erin Joyce
Sure you can book travel packages to Vegas on the big travel sites such as Expedia and Orbitz. But can you also get the latest odds on sports betting? Where to find strip clubs? A wedding planner? Tickets to Siegfried & Roy? Those are some of the differences that VEGAS.com, the site about the gambling playground, wants to tell the world about. It may have to get louder about itself. Online travel competitors in the hot online travel category are keen for a bigger piece of the Vegas action, given its distinction as one of the top tourist destinations.
The venture has plenty of local media muscle to help. VEGAS.com is owned by the privately-held Greenspun Media Group, publisher of newspapers and magazines such as Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Weekly, Showbiz, Las Vegas Life, InBusiness, VegasGolfer, Ralston Report/Flash. It also has other major real estate holdings in Las Vegas and vicinity (the so-called "Green" in the Green Valley developments near Las Vegas) as well as a majority interest in cable company Cox Communications.
AtNewYork recently sat down with Howard Lefkowitz, the president of VEGAS.com, to chat about the Vegas.com "difference."
Q: It sure is heating up in online travel, and everybody's offering Vegas packages. How are you different?
The big picture is that VEGAS.com is what it sounds like. We offer all the stuff travels sites do, air and hotels, travel packages. We also offer show tickets, tours, all the things one does once you get to Vegas. As part of the (privately-held) Greenspun Group, we can take advantage of trusted relationships that it has built up in Vegas for over a century. So this is the next step in the evolution of a family business, to offer a unique value proposition for users who come to the site.
It's also part of the goal of growing the assets of the city. We're not there to just compete on price. Sure, you get good usability, a fast download, and competitive prices. But the product differentiator is content that has value, the brand, the access to activities with a trusted broker, a series of unique benefits. It's the notion that you've got a guy in Vegas getting you access.
Q: Can you talk about this $6.5 million advertising campaign you recently announced? How will you use it to brand VEGAS.com?
We just announced it so there's not a lot we can talk about it yet. There will be a series of Vegas-type personalities involved. But regarding branding, the thing I like about our name is our name. Vegas is a brand fabled in story and song for decades. So we're harnessing that, which means creating a product and crafting a brand message that drives people through the entire communication and sale process.
Q: But how do you distinguish the new, improved, family-friendly Vegas from the 'high-roller' Vegas of yore that we know from movies like "Casino"?
That's the answer. Vegas is what you want it to be. In some ways it's like the Internet. Vegas has what you want and what I want from Vegas. About six percent of all wedding plans take place in Vegas. We'll be rolling out new features for wedding planning sometime in the first half of next year, where you can pick a chapel, colors, call a person to help you get it planned, book your rehearsal dinner, even get married in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon if you like.
If all you have on a travel site are good tangible benefits (low prices), you will drop off early. The intangible benefits are where we're focusing on: which club do you go to on a Wednesday night, or where do you park? We'll have the competitive (hotel) room rates, that's not the issue. If you want access to all kinds of great things in Vegas and at home, then we're the one you want to do business with.
Q: We know you won't find mail order brides on the site. But you can get gambling info, marriage info, and soon, free tattoos? Can you talk about those?
You'll have to stay tuned.