Mr. Las Vegas PART 2

In the second half of an exclusive interview with Lodging Hospitality contributor Stephen Michaelides, Las Vegas casino-hotel impresario Steve Wynn discusses the creation of The Wynn, his philosophies of service and the future of Las Vegas.

At the end of the first article, Wynn spoke of the influences archeology, art and nature had on his vision for The Wynn, his three-year-old, 2,716-room Strip property.

What was your design philosophy that inspired The Wynn?

The simple idea was that every part of the place physically would enhance and enrich the experience of whatever the guest would be doing in that space — shopping, eating, walking, traversing. … everything. Our primary concern was to design the hotel from the inside out, unlike my prior hotels that we designed from the outside looking in. [At those properties,] the audience was the Strip and the other hotels, while the faηade of the hotel was the theater.

With The Wynn, we made a 180-degree change and said that the audience is the people in the hotel and the theater is what surrounds them.

Not a bad idea.

We turned it from outside-in to inside-out. Now that took care of the physical planning part of the building. Inside out: that idea controlled every single constituent that the designer developed. That grounding of the idea kept us focused during design development and construction. When the time came to remain consistent to that idea — to hire staff and manage the place from a human resources point of view, again, the “idea” came into play.

I am a believer in and a friend of the Dalai Lama. The man was a simple Tibetan monk, a Buddhist monk, who believes (not as a moral imperative, but as a simple observation) that the only way to be happy in life is to be helpful to others. That — no matter how successful you are — you will find at the end your satisfaction and sense of happiness come from the fact you feel as though you've done something nice for other people; that you've been helpful, compassionate, warm-hearted. The Dalai Lama's teachings and beliefs are a perfect corollary to gaining a perfect competitive advantage for us.

I can get 10,000 people feeling good about working here — this is a very subtle point — not because I tell them to feel good about working here, but because we've created an environment and a culture in which their work supports a genuine acceptance, realization and understanding of what it takes to be helpful and caring of a single guest each day. That's what changes the course of this enterprise.

So, here we go again with a Buddhist-centered idea that an employee, caring for a guest, makes sure he or she is happy; and as the relationship unfolds — regardless of how brief it might be — that the employee is happy, too. That is the path to a competitive advantage. Not the decision of a committee to create the Employee of the Month (although, we do have programs like that), not a prize or a bonus or a trip to Hawaii, but the private certainty when you're alone in the room you realize you've done something wonderful for a guest that they didn't expect. That's a culture, not a human resource command; not a handbook manifesto. The ability to do that, to arrange an environment of that sort is an art form and requires a great deal of thought. And that is the way we met the challenges of designing, building and operating a superior hotel.

Of all the components that make up the guest experience, from valet to front desk to housekeeping to foodservice, is there one that's more critical to the resort's success and the guest experience? If so, what is it?

The total voice of the employee. Everything else is a joke by comparison. Everything else doesn't amount to one percent. Everything is the eye contact and the tone of voice of the employee. Forget everything else.

People of taste and discretion don't want big, they want nice; they don't want dirty, they want clean; they want pretty, not ugly; and they want to be cared for by people who care for them as human beings, not as Blackjack customers or a drink customer, or a diner, but as human beings.

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