Sunday 22 October 2017

Las Vegas: Thousands of Irish visit every year to party in desert mirage

A sign on the Strip says ‘Pray for Las Vegas’. Picture: Reuters
A sign on the Strip says ‘Pray for Las Vegas’. Picture: Reuters
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

There are no direct flights from Ireland to Las Vegas. Still, tens of thousands of Irish make the 13-plus hour trip every year.

They are honeymooners. Holidaymakers on stopovers. Groups of friends on lost weekends ('What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas'). They are Conor McGregor fans, following the MMA messiah. And numbers are growing.

Why do they go? For a grown-up Disneyland.

Sin City is a desert mirage where the quietest of office workers can morph into talk show hosts, where the casinos have no windows or clocks, where real gondolas glide over fake canals and hotel fronts take the form of rollercoasters and replica Eiffel Towers.

It's surreal. But it's not just skin-deep. Las Vegas's food and shopping scenes are among the best in the US, its old downtown is pure Americana, and its shows are stunners - from Céline Dion to Cirque du Soleil.

Now this. Suddenly, one of those shows is a crime scene. Like the Bataclan in Paris, the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, like Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, a night out has metamorphosed into a horrific mass murder.

Vegas will bounce back quickly. I'm certain of it. There's a resilience to the city, to Americans, to humans. While destinations like Egypt and Tunisia have been wiped off the tourist map by mass shootings and terror attacks, big cities tend to rebound, tourists to return. Think London. Nice. Madrid. Berlin.

Of course, that's no comfort to Las Vegans today.

Yesterday, the Department of Foreign Affairs did not specifically mention the city on its US travel advice page. But it did have a poignant general warning.

"There is an increased threat of terrorism and extremist violence worldwide and this should be borne in mind by Irish citizens living and working in the USA. The USA has also witnessed a number of mass shootings in recent years."

Irish Independent

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