'It has changed the whole idea of being in Vegas': Can Sin City recover after the mass shooting?
Reminders of the tragedy are all over the city, but tourists try to carry on as if nothing happened
So close to the famous Bellagio fountains you can practically feel the spray, there's a memorial to the victims of Sunday's shooting. On the railing there's a Canadian flag, and no shortage of Canadian tourists walking down the Las Vegas strip who stop to sign it.
"She was nervous about coming," Kiley says, looking at his wife.
Many of their friends cancelled. But the Bradleys got on the plane. Can't let the bad guys win, they say.
"I told her the worst thing that could happen to us down there is that you may not get the Las Vegas story," he says.
The "Las Vegas story": a myth built on the promise of escape. A fantasy land where the Jacksons from the Vancouver area had hoped to leave everything behind. To "feel like a kid again."
"Just enjoy yourself with not having to deal with the stresses of outside life," Todd Jackson says.
Now everything seems different, he says, as though Las Vegas were just another city.
"You can tell the atmosphere here in Vegas has changed and people are a little more reserved," Jackson says. "You see people with tears in their eyes like myself."
As he speaks, a tear rolls down his cheek.
"It has changed the whole idea of being in Vegas," he says, "wondering what's going to happen next, is there going to be anything that happens?"
All over the strip you see reminders of the tragedy. Several electronic billboards outside the strip's hotels — normally promoting hot chefs or upcoming shows — now commemorate the fallen. The hospitality industry is forced to walk a fine line between respecting the victims and bumming out its customers.
The Sinclairs, who arrived from Muskoka, Ont., the night of the shooting, are trying to carry on with their holiday as if nothing had happened
"We stayed in our hotel basically for the first day kind of in shock, and then realize you know, people have got to move forward, move on," says Jeff Sinclair.
Police presence everywhere
Sinclair suspects this tragedy might prompt other international visitors to pick a different destination. Already in 2017, international tourism in the United States has slid about four per cent. This latest mass shooting, Sinclair says, may not help.
"There's a big problem with guns in the States, as far as my wife and I are concerned," Sinclair says.
There are now police everywhere along the strip, often posing for selfies, doing their best to seem like just another Vegas attraction. But paradoxically their presence makes some visitors like Saskatchewan's Ben Babey even more nervous.
He, along with a buddy and their wives, have parked their scooters on the strip not far from the memorial. Nearby, a group of six police officers stand talking in a circle.
"The police that you see here, you've got to wonder what the heck," Babey says. "That's a lot of cops just to try to keep you safe."
And their presence, he says, has changed the vibe in Sin City.
"With this happening, now I'm seeing less and less smiles and having a good time," Babey says. "They're more serious, trying to figure out whether or not you're a nut."
This ostentatious police presence is temporary; by the end of the week there are now fewer units posted outside the Vegas hotels than there were in the days immediately after the shooting. Babey's friend Chris Clarke says beefing up policing isn't as important as making more permanent changes, like improving security and screening inside the hotels.
"They have to do something in order to make it feel safe for everybody to come," says Clarke. "It's going to be an extra added expense. And unfortunately everybody's going to be paying for it in the long run."
Installing high-tech monitoring systems
Even before Sunday's attack, some Las Vegas hotels had begun installing high-tech monitoring systems with the aim of preventing this kind of mass violence. At the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, a Canadian company is installing a radar-based weapon detection system that guests can't see.
"There isn't a single silver bullet," says Martin Cronin, CEO of Burlington, Ont.,-based Patriot One Technologies. "What security managers in Las Vegas will be looking at is how they can supplement existing security measures … not making people live in a fortress or an open prison. We have to try to balance the ability of people to go about their lives with improved measures of security."
For the Jacksons, Las Vegas will never be the same. But that doesn't mean they won't be back.
"As Canadians, we want to make sure we're showing that Vegas is still a great place to come, and we have to take care of our partners, our American friends," says Todd Jackson, who lives a seven minutes' drive from the border. "This is a way of us giving back and saying we are always going to remember what went on, and we're here for you."
The best way to show their support, he says, is through "retail therapy."
They leave the memorial and walk hand-in-hand towards the nearby shopping gallery. The show, they say, must go on. Their views are distilled by a tourist from London, Ont., who scrawled on a memorial placard in white marker "Viva Las Vegas." Elvis's hit of the same name plays over the Bellagio's loudspeakers as the fountains splash and dance.