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Thu, Feb 8, 2024 3:07pmGrey Clock 4 min

LAS VEGAS—Few places vacuum money from you like this glittering gambling and entertainment playground.  That’s true for the visitors in town for Sunday’s Super Bowl —official motto: Excessive Celebration Encouraged. And it’s true for visitors any time, with the $US200 seats at the pool and the $US800 bottle service at nightclubs. All before you step onto the casino floor.  You can fly here for as little as $US50 if you play your cards right. But people come to Vegas to spend, and the businesses here know it. This place hits travellers with potential upgrades every few steps. So I flew in for an experiment, a real-life version of the Jim Carrey comedy “Yes Man” (or “Yes Day” if you’re a Jennifer Garner fan). I said yes to every upgrade and VIP package to see just how much you get for your money, and what can be skipped. I had parameters. The $US3,999 helicopter ride to the top of Valley of Fire State Park for yoga was out. As was the $US4,000-a-night upgrade offer to a three-bedroom presidential suite at my hotel.  Still, I cut lines, got a massage in the reserved seats at the Aria sportsbook during an NFL wild-card game, relaxed in a private lounge before a show at the Sphere , and drank a French 75 from a prime window seat at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. In all, I spent $US976 to upgrade my Vegas visit.  Was every upcharge worth it? Absolutely not. But a few are worth your money.

Yes, yes and yes

The offers began minutes after I booked a room for two nights at the luxury all-suite Palazzo resort. The price: $US480 before taxes and fees for two nights, a relative bargain on a holiday weekend in January. How much for a room booked last-minute for Super Bowl weekend? $US1,700 a night. I landed two upgrades after an email prompt gauged my interest: $US75 for early check-in and $US57 a night for a city view, the cheapest room category upgrade. Early check-in fees irk me , but this was worth it after my early flight. I was in the room by 11 a.m.  The room was swank. The view of Treasure Island and the Mirage was nothing special.

A city view room at the Palazzo resort, where travel columnist Dawn Gilbertson paid an extra $57 a night plus taxes to upgrade the view. PHOTO: DAWN GILBERTSON/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

I headed to Area15, an arts and entertainment complex. First stop: Meow Wolf ’s Omega Mart, a popular immersive art experience that takes visitors into a bizarro grocery store that links to an alternate dimension. Admission is $US54; upgrading to a $US99 VIP package promised to “enhance my experience”   but bought me a souvenir pin, VIP lanyard, a cocktail and a 15% discount I didn’t use at the gift shop. Maybe the good stuff comes with the $US129 scavenger hunt package. (As I perused products like cans of faux La Croix in mashed-potato flavour and wandered a dizzying hall of mirrors, I wondered how many visitors upgraded with a trip to a local dispensary beforehand.) Admission to stroll around the rest of Area15 is free, but I upgraded to a $US35 pass, which included five attractions, the best of which was the outdoor Liftoff ride with great views of the Strip.

Cutting lines for crab legs

Many resorts here gave up the buffet business for good during the pandemic . The Wicked Spoon buffet at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas still packs them in. Saturday brunch had an hourlong wait during my visit. VIP line to the rescue! $US35 gets you a head start on the $US62 all-you-can-eat feast of snow crab legs, sushi and slow-roasted strip loin. The best part: The manager overseeing the line comped the fee because she said she enjoyed talking to me and a friend while we waited. (I never identify myself to employees as a Wall Street Journal reporter on these types of assignments.) Suddenly playing with house money, I sprang for the unlimited mimosa package for $US33 after tax and tip, to go with the brunch base price. There is a 90-minute limit, but I had places to be.

One movie, $US245

My colleague Jason Gay calls the Sphere, the giant orb that sits behind the Venetian, a “beach ball peaking on acid.” He paid $US539 to see U2 at the new venue.  In the biggest single splurge on my trip, I paid $US245 to see a 50-minute movie there. The Director’s Seat package promised VIP entry, pre show lounge access with free beer, wine and snacks and a souvenir Sphere T-shirt. The VIP entry was the best perk, letting me skip the clogged Regular Joe lines. I was one of the first people in the atrium, where a humanoid robot named Aura chatted with me and a couple from Arkansas who also took the VIP plunge. The robot asked them the secret to their 55-year marriage. We met again in the nearly empty lounge before the Darren Aronofsky show “Postcard From Earth.”

Delta Sky Club this ain’t: The small food spread included soft pretzels with cheese and mustard. The bartender did dig out a great local IPA, Atomic Duck, and pointed me to the popcorn that VIP guests could take into the movie. The package promises premium seating for the show, a trip around the globe in which seats rattled when elephants or a jumbo jet rumbled across the giant screen. My seat was good, albeit one row up and an aisle over from my friends who paid $US79 for their standard tickets.  The final Yes Day in Vegas is a spendy blur: $US190 to watch the Lions and Rams duke it out in an NFL playoff nail-biter from a high-top table with food and alcohol included in a roped-off section at Aria Resort & Casino. The rest of the sportsbook was standing room only. Then there was the $US40-a-person fee for the window seat at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant overlooking the dancing Bellagio fountains. The couple celebrating their anniversary one table back couldn’t believe I paid the fee.  I left Vegas a little spoiled and out of sorts. When Southwest Airlines offered a $US50 upgrade to jump to the front of its boarding line on my flight home, I clicked buy. Can’t wait to explain that one to the folks in Expense Accounting.


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AACCI’s Strategic Vision for Enhancing Australia-Arab Trade Relations

The Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) is fostering robust trade relations between Australia and Arab countries.

Mon, May 20, 2024 5 min

In an era where global trade and international relationships are more crucial than ever, the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) serves as a bridge, for cooperation and growth between Australia and the Arab nations. Led by its Chairman, Mr. Mohamed Hage, the AACCI has taken on projects aimed at strengthening relationships and fostering development across borders.

This exclusive interview explores the initiatives implemented by the AACCI to expand its presence and influence in the region including the significant establishment of a new operational hub in Dubai. We also delve into how the Chamber embraces education through training and research, its participation in major international exhibitions, and its active support for both large corporations and small businesses.

Looking towards tomorrow, Mr. Mohamed shares his vision for broadening AACCI’s reach emphasizing the importance of the on-ground operations and cultural understanding in building business connections.

-Could you elaborate on the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry, including its objectives and main areas of focus?

The Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) plays a fundamental role, in promoting business partnerships and trade between Australia and the 22 Arab countries. As a member of the Union of Arab Chambers affiliated with the Arab League, AACCI focuses on strengthening trade and investment ties, across these countries.

To nurture these connections effectively AACCI has outlined four objectives: facilitating trade and investment activities, certifying documents, educating stakeholders, and offering marketing assistance.

Our initiatives are designed not only to empower trade and investment endeavors but to also ensure engagement with specific sectors that drive these activities. With an understanding of the characteristics, strengths and preferences of each country, AACCI prides itself on its specialized knowledge customized to suit the distinct business environments of these nations.

– As the AACCI approaches its 50th anniversary, what have been some of the key milestones and achievements?

I believe one of AACCI’s accomplishments is the opportunities it has opened up for numerous Australian companies to access markets, in the region. Moreover, the strong bilateral trade relationship that has developed between Australia and the 22 Arab nations over the five decades has led to trade transactions amounting to billions of dollars.

This extensive trade covers industries such as food and beverages, luxury hotels and many more services. Each successive generation, within AACCI has built upon the foundation laid by its predecessors enriching their knowledge base and expanding their range of services.

– How does the AACCI leverage its diverse leadership team to enhance trade and investment opportunities between Australia and the Arab region?

Since taking on the role of chairman, my main focus has been on expanding our presence in the region. This led to the idea of opening an office in Dubai, which symbolizes our dedication to deepening our engagement in that area. We have successfully secured the license to open our first office in Dubai after 50 years, which will serve as a gateway to the GCC and North Africa.

I strongly believe that building two-way trade and investment ties requires more than a degree of business connectivity; it demands having local representatives present in each region. With trends emphasizing strategies the value of face-to-face engagements cannot be overstated.

Setting up offices in the region is essential for the Chamber to truly serve as a link and support system for business activities. Ultimately this expansion will bring benefits to our members and partners by providing them with access, to dynamic markets and diverse prospects.

– Can you discuss the significance of AACCI’s role in cultural and business exchanges between the two regions?

The importance of understanding cultures in our operations cannot be overstated. To address this, we have included a training platform within the Chamber to strengthen our cultural awareness initiatives. This new program offers our members access to modules on our website focusing on global business practices.

Furthermore, we have set up a Center of Excellence specifically dedicated to researching areas like food security and cultural awareness. These research endeavors are essential for promoting knowledge between the two regions.

By combining the resources of the Center of Excellence, our training resources, and the forthcoming local office in Dubai, we’re providing cultural awareness not only in the region but also in Australia. This approach ensures that our members are well equipped and knowledgeable boosting their effectiveness and involvement, in markets.

– What is the objective of your on-ground presence at conferences and events?

Participating in conferences and on ground events is very important for increasing awareness in industries like construction where knowledge of opportunities in the Arab world may not be widespread. When we see projects such as NEOM or notice the construction boom happening in the region it becomes important for organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to highlight these prospects. By taking part in large scale expos such as the Sydney Build Expo we position ourselves at the forefront of these advancements.

Our presence at these events enables interaction giving entrepreneurs a chance to visit our booth engage in discussions and learn more about the region in an approachable and personalized manner. This plays a role in simplifying the process and making opportunities concrete.

– With such a diverse membership base, how does AACCI tailor its services to meet the needs of both large corporations and small startups?

When it comes to discussing business it’s important to grasp how influence and vision come into play. Businesses looking to expand are often motivated by a desire to achieve something whether they are big companies or small enterprises. Small businesses typically aim to raise their brands profile while larger corporations seek recognition and market dominance.

Standing out in this area can be tough mainly because the key driving force is the passion to showcase the brand and products on a platform. This determination serves as a motivator for entrepreneurs.

At the Chamber we make a point of recognizing the needs of both big and small players by understanding each members individual situation. We ensure that every member is well informed about the opportunities and risks that come with expanding. For small businesses, this means being aware of the financial demands, while large businesses are advised on the necessity of both financial and emotional resilience.

– How does AACCI plan to expand or evolve its services in the coming years to further support its members?

The importance of having resources on the ground cannot be emphasized enough. Having local staff is key to establishing connections with the communities we serve. Without a presence in the area staying updated on events and activities becomes quite challenging.

This is why, as I’ve mentioned before, we have established an office in Dubai, staffed with personnel dedicated to supporting our members. This local office will help us effectively bridge the gap between Australia and the Arab world. And our members will benefit from insights and assistance from someone who truly knows the landscape.

In Australia we have equipped offices throughout the country staffed by individuals who play a significant role in our operations. This strong domestic network complements our efforts ensuring that we provide support to our members both locally and globally. This strategic approach is crucial, for nurturing business relationships and fostering continental understanding.



Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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