In July 2007, Luxor announced a $300 million renovation to undertake the seemingly perverse task of taking the Egyptian theme out of the pyramid-shaped resort. As iconic as the pyramid had become since it opened in 1993, according to Luxor President and COO Felix Rappaport, the casino was mostly seen from the outside. His goal, he said at the time, was to make the casino more “sticky.”
Luxor was mostly enjoyed by locals for the ample parking compared to neighboring Mandalay Bay, to which the pyramid easily connects inside, and tourists appreciated the pyramid’s rooms for being economical, even if the interior design was a bit tricky to get around. When Luxor opened a nightclub, of course, an Egyptian theme and name, Ra, was required. It was those manacles from which Rappaport hoped to free the property.
In the past year Luxor has opened the hot nightclub LAX, poached the popular Bodies: The Exhibition from the Tropicana, caught great buzz with CatHouse and, if nothing else, generated a mountain of publicity from Criss Angel Believe. But outside of these large changes have been a multitude of smaller ones. At the end of October, a new taco restaurant replaced a generic chain. The opening featured celebrity host Tila Tequila as well as the resort’s headliners Criss Angel and Carrot Top. There were also the scene-makers you don’t expect to see at the opening of a taco place on the mezzanine at Luxor. But things have changed, and are still changing.
Rappaport says: “Everything new we were hoping to create a wow factor with. But the things that are attractive up here have to be easy to get to, and we are also building an escalator that is opening in a month that will really connect things. Access is the most difficult thing with the [pyramid] structure, but if you work with the right people, anything is possible. Our dream for up here [off the gambling floor] is to create an adult entertainment zone. We just closed the IMAX theater. We are contemplating something new for that. So, we are not done.”
But visitors are already feeling the impact. A couple of months ago, adult star Jesse Jane was asked to host a party at CatHouse. She had been to Luxor in the past, but only briefly: “I never went there to go there, because it was the Luxor.” Her night at CatHouse changed her impression. “Now Luxor is great. It has really changed. It is a really good place to go now.”
But in these budget-conscious days, no one is willing to claim that Luxor is attempting to be a high-end resort like Bellagio or Wynn. Instead, Rappaport says, “We are trying to be approachable. We want to be a cooler and hipper middle-market property. We want to be less themed but still a middle-market property. When Circus Circus built this, there were no brands here. And there was nothing unique except the theme. The theme worked great for the outside but was a disappointment on the inside.”
So while the inside of Luxor has abandoned Egypt, the exterior remains almost entirely unchanged, according to Rappaport. “We don’t have any plans to change the basic structure. It is a pyramid. We have no plans to get rid of the Sphinx or obelisk. But we are creating new venues inside and don’t want to be constrained by a theme.”
And while that may be a little less Egypt, it also means the Luxor has become a lot more sticky.