By: Hilary Wickes, America Outdoors
COVID Takeaways During Travel
America Outdoors is excitedly planning for our 2021 conference & outfitter expo this December 7-10 in Las Vegas, NV. Because we are still in the midst of a pandemic, we want to address some of the issues that may be on your mind as you consider attendance. During our outreach to members, we have received some great feedback. There are some common themes: members are excited to be reunited; some are nervous about travel and the hotel experience; others feel comfortable with the risk level but worry about the networking experience in a mask. During a recent visit to Las Vegas, I took careful notes about the experience in the airport, hotel, and other areas of the city to help you understand what to expect if you choose to join us this December.
Prior to my trip, I checked the website for my local airport and for Las Vegas. You can see updates for LV here. It is recommended to arrive to the airport early during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is due to increased cleaning, reduced contact and other measures implemented by TSA in response to the pandemic. I did not experience any disruption to travel to and from Las Vegas.
Las Vegas McCarran Airport’s updated rules can be found on the home page:
Be prepared & minimize risk:
According to the CDC, viruses do not spread easily on flights due to air circulation and filtration, but the time spent in the airport can be risky, so it is recommended to take flights with fewer layovers and to avoid crowds when possible.
Make sure you bring a mask. In the airport and on the plane all passengers are required to wear masks, except when eating or drinking. During layovers, I was able to find empty gate areas to grab a quick bite between flights. KN95 or P-95 masks are a nice way to upgrade your protection.
If you are coming from overseas, your experience will be different. For requirements and additional information, please visit the State Department website. We are encouraged to see that the U.S. will be relaxing restriction for vaccinated travelers from overseas before the December conference.
Bally’s Check-in Experience
The trip from the airport to Bally’s was very quick- about 10 minutes. Check-in look a bit longer than normal, but I was impressed with the system. The “registration area” included about 12 contactless check-in machines. Once I reached the front of the line, I was able to use the machine to quickly complete my check-in process; it even printed out directions to my room. Bally’s is not a huge hotel like some in Vegas, but it was helpful to have those instructions for a first-time visitor.
According to Bally’s website, the hotel has established enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, mask wearing requirements, increased hand washing and additional procedures to address the pandemic. I witnessed cleaning in the lobby, including the registration area, between each guest. According to a representative of the hotel, Bally’s has passed all inspections related to air ventilation and filtration.
Experience in the Convention Center
The Bally’s Casino, like much of Vegas, is quite noisy, with music pumping and machines flashing. I was pleasantly surprised to step into the convention center section of the hotel while the noise drifted away. During our conference we will enjoy peace and privacy that will allow us to learn and connect with our own group.
The exhibit hall will have 10’ wide aisles, so there will be plenty of space to keep distance if you choose to do so. We will be adding in additional standing tables for the meals. If you wish to eat separate from the group, there are some couches in the salon area to escape for a quick bite.
The City of Las Vegas
Per the Governor’s orders, all of Nevada has a mask mandate while indoors. This mandate may be lifted before the conference in December, but plan to bring several masks for the conference.
Vegas was busy as usual. The amazing thing about this town is that people visit for so many different reasons. Some are there to gamble; many are in it for the shows; some just want to relax and people-watch; others leave the strip ASAP to hit Red Rocks for the outdoor opportunities. We will be there to learn and connect, but if you plan well, you can take advantage of whatever suits you before or after the conference.
Opportunities to Get Outside
Las Vegas is right next to some beautiful areas for outdoor recreation. We recommend extending your trip to take advantage of the opportunities to explore. Red Rock Canyon, 20-30 minutes from our hotel, is famous for its climbing. It is also great for hiking or biking. Lake Mead is just a quick 45-minute trip; you can check out Hoover Dam or take a kayak trip with AO member Evolution Expedition. If you have more time, you can do a trip to Valley of Fire, Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks or the Grand Canyon.
Learn More About Minimizing Risk While Traveling
Every outfitter must decide what is best for your team. While the downward trend in cases is a positive sign, all members should be aware of how to protect themselves while traveling, using these CDC guidelines. We are all in this together; we can’t wait to meet with our members again this December!