10/21/2010 12:33 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Profiles in Doing Both: When Hot Isn't Cool in Las Vegas

Under normal circumstances, having the hottest spot on the Las Vegas Strip is something to boast about. Not this time.

Today, the Vdara Hotel and Spa is reeling from news reports that its ultra-efficient, energy-saving windows are casting a shadow over the hotel's reputation. Make that a ray of light so powerful that it can melt plastic and scorch skin, instead.

Shortly after the Vdara opened in December 2009, reports surfaced that this beam wreaking havoc poolside. Guest complaints sent hotel officials scurrying. They've since acknowledged there is a problem with light reflecting from the windows and have committed to deploying a suitable fix. But their options are limited.

The Vdara is one of the most expensive, mid-sized hotels ever built in Las Vegas. The 1,495-room facility is part of MGM's $8.75 billion CityCenter project. A posh shopping, dining and gambling destination, CityCenter was designed to offer tourists the finest in entertainment and hospitality.

The Vdara itself is a sleek, 57-story hotel that boasts an 18,000 sq.-ft exercise facility, all-suite accommodations and one of the most desirable addresses on the Las Vegas Strip. According to Vdara's owners, its "distinctive crescent shape and unique skin of patterned glass create one of the most striking design statements in Las Vegas."

Make that striking and potentially hazardous. Part of the blame for the "death ray" is the building's unusual design--the concave, southern wall, in particular. That wall acts as a massive solar collector that gathers sunlight, according to reports. When the condensed ray is reflected downward by the building's space-age windows, the result is the laser-like beam that has made the Vdara pool the hottest spot in town.

Prior to opening, hotel officials hoped to diffuse any problem by installing thin film on the hotel's high-priced windows. While the effort reduced the "death ray," it did not eliminate it. Now, officials are looking at erecting shades and planting trees to remedy the problem--a cover-up, if you will.

Given the price and profile of the Vdara, many are scratching their heads. How could a miscue of this magnitude happen? While building and design experts will no doubt debate this for years, business leaders will likely draw their conclusions more quickly.

The Vdara erred in one very basic way. In an attempt to establish relevance among environmentally-conscious travelers, it overlooked the need to demonstrate excellence as well. Success requires doing both. But that wasn't in the cards in this Las Vegas situation.

Pressed to distinguish their property from others, the creators of the Vdara set out to redefine relevance in a city that has traditionally prized dreams over reality. Instead of water-guzzling fountains or dazzling electric lights, the builders of the Vdara thought long and hard about the modern traveler. Weary of European contrivances and American extravagances, travelers, Vdara executives calculated, would flock to the most environmentally friendly, luxury experience possible.

To build their hotel, they used wood products from responsibly managed forests and exceeded local energy efficiency standards by 30 percent. For their effort, the hotel earned six Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) awards from the United States Green Building Council. It was also named by Orbitz as one of "5 Eco-Friendly Las Vegas Vacations."

The initial reaction among trendy jetsetters and hotel reviewers was favorable. But then the "death ray" cast a pall over the achievement.

By failing to address its shortcoming in excellence, the Vdara put itself in an undesirable position. It has become the butt of late-night TV talk show hosts, and the focus of media scrutiny from Australia to England. Thanks to the so-called "death ray" and the sluggish economy, prices have sagged and reviews have soured.

Vdara can still turn itself around, but it will take a rededication to excellence--one that matches the effort the hotel put forth to make itself relevant. Until then, the Vdara is likely to remain the hottest spot on the strip for all the wrong reasons.

Inder Sidhu is the Senior Vice President of Strategy & Planning for Worldwide Operations at Cisco, and the author of Doing Both: How Cisco Captures Today's Profits and Drives Tomorrow's Growth. Follow Inder on Twitter at @indersidhu.

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