Nevada NewsMakers

News - April 13, 2020 - by Ray Hagar

Major segments of Nevada's tourism industry could face "a slow hike back" from the nation's coronavirus economic shutdown, Nevada's 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei said on Nevada Newsmakers.

Even after the stay-at-home directive is lifted in Nevada and other states, people may still be wary about getting too close to each other in public settings, Amodei told host Sam Shad.

He mentioned venues like casino floors, stadiums and concert halls. He called for a collaboration among resort-industry officials and heath-care experts to find solutions to keep people safe and ease fears.

"I think casino floors are going to get less congested with gaming devices in order to do some of the separation stuff," Amodei, a Republican from Carson City, said. "You talk about special events or conventions ... and I think it is going to be a slow hike back."

Much depends on the development of a vaccine, Amodei said. Yet even when a vaccine for covid-19 is discovered and distributed, people may still be wary of gathering together, he said. Best estimates for the development and distribution of a covid-19 vaccine are a year to 18 months, national experts have said.

"Let's say by the end of next year, antibody research is done, and you've got a vaccine approved. They have solved that problem as far as epidemiology goes," Amodei said. "OK great. But I tell you what: There are people who have lived through this, whether you are somebody in their 60s like me or a teen. And this will be one of those things that everybody remembers for the rest of their lives.

"And so (will there be) anxiousness to go over and buy a ticket at PacBell Park and rub elbows with somebody from 400 miles away that you don't know?' he asked, referring to the former name of the SF Giants' stadium. "I just think it is going to be on people's minds in terms of how they do things."

To make a point, Amodei joked that Congressional Democrats wanted stimulus money for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., so the operators could re-figure the concert-hall seating to comply with safe-distancing.

"Hey, the reason the Kennedy Center needed $25 million, is because they've got to take out every other seat so they can do spacing, which obviously isn't true," he said.

Yet he was serious when talking about Las Vegas:

"I'm not saying at the (Las Vegas) Raiders stadium, they are going to have to yank out every other seat (for safe distancing). But if you are just sitting there looking at that, going, everybody is going to reach their own equilibrium," he said.

"There will be things that quite frankly, (people) would have loved to have done before, which is pack into a concert hall. But now they are going to maybe think twice about," he said.

"Or, those (tourism industry) operators are going to have to innovate, like, 'here is what you are going to go through before you go ahead and sit down with 10 people,' " Amodei said.

"Or, those ticket prices are going up because that table of 10 has just become a table for six. Because we are not going to put everybody in there like this, with whatever the square footage that the fire department says we can do," Amodei said.

Amodei, a former chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, stopped short of endorsing a plan to take peoples' temperatures before they were allowed to enter an entertainment venue. Instead, he stressed the necessity of a collaborative effort of tourism and health-care experts.

"I really hope that the innovators and blue-chip operators are going to go: Here's how you are basically going to come into my place to gamble and you are not going to have to risk - whatever -- for it," Amodei said. "Here's how you are going to get into my special-event venue and do that. Here's how you are going to go to the computer show or the gun show or whatever the heck it is, swap meet, farmer's market.

"Here's how we are going to do this so we are not putting people at risk, even though we think we've got the (vaccine) shot or the pill," Amodei said. "Because having gone through this, there is nobody that is unaffected. So having gone through this, it is going to be on people's minds."

Before the coronavirus hit, tourism was booming. Nevada attracted 56.5 million visitors in fiscal year 2018, according to the Nevada Resort Association. Yet the shutdown will cost the Southern Nevada economy almost $40 billion, according to the NRA.

More then 28 percent of workers in the region were employed in the hospitality/leisure sector, according to UNLV's Center for Business and Economic Research.

How and when Nevada tourism matches those previous numbers is tough to predict, Amodei said.

"The world has changed in ways it will never change back from already," Amodei said. "But the economic goal of this thing is we want to be back to some level of figuring out what normal is within a year. Let's just throw a number out there. Is it going to be back to like nothing ever happened? No, because there are some moving parts to that. What's the vaccine research? What is the antibody research?

Amodei stressed he hopes he's wrong about his projections.

"The whole challenge of this thing right now economically is to make it as short as possible to get back as close as possible in the shortest amount of time," Amodei said.