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Las Vegas Solidifies Itself As a Leading Events Destination
Customer demand, competitive dynamics and pure opportunity are driving unprecedented innovation in new venues, products and experiences in Las Vegas. This creates even more options for planners hosting meetings and events in the already popular city.
Major projects are underway destination-wide like the forward-thinking expansions of the Las Vegas Convention District and Caesars Entertainment’s impressive new conference center. Partnerships like the World Trade Center Las Vegas continue to promise future meetings in the city. And that’s just the beginning.
Las Vegas is boldly going where no convention city has gone before, earning its place as one of the leading destinations for meetings and events.
Convention Development Is Solid Gold for Las Vegas
In 1959, the original spaceship-shaped Las Vegas Convention Center debuted with the World Congress of Flight, attracting 7,500 U.S. and global delegates. Among the local headlines: “Big Convention Hall Era for Vegas Seen.”
Now, the venue is a nearly $10 billion economic powerhouse with an even bigger era ahead. In 2019, Las Vegas reaches a major milestone: 25 consecutive years as North America’s tradeshow leader. At GMID ’19, video tributes from leading show partners CES, SEMA and CONEXPO-CON/AGG included pledges to come back for another 25 years.
Chris Brown, executive vice president, conventions and business operations of the National Association of Broadcasters, called Vegas the “gold standard in trade show destinations.”
Signature expansions include the Las Vegas Convention Center District.
“Futurist thinking” is part of the plan. Transportation pioneer Elon Musk has proposed boring underground tunnels for looping delegates around the convention complex in high-speed autonomous electric vehicles. Following LVCVA Board approval of the concept in March 2019, contract negotiations are anticipated for June 2019.
The Evolving WTC Strategy Brings the World to Las Vegas
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association and its hit show CES, spearheaded a partnership with the LVCVA to form the World Trade Center Las Vegas. In addition to marketing Las Vegas as a tourism and convention destination worldwide, this partnership also designated the Las Vegas Convention Center as a WTC site, making it the only WTC-designated convention center site in North America.
Partners can utilize office space at the convention center and access high-level companies coming to Las Vegas for tradeshows and conventions every year.
Tied into the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, the partnership also brings in trade missions with future meetings potential. Signed this year, the new MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, representing about 4,500 Nevada enterprises, creates an official WTC Business Club for enhanced relationship-building opportunities.
“It’s ultimately another vehicle to face-to-face interaction, which Vegas has promoted for years,” said Chris Meyer, WTC Las Vegas executive director and LVCVA vice president of global sales. “The number of WTC members now recognizing the value of bringing people together through meetings and events is hugely validating.”
The partnership has secured MOUs with 21 WTC license holders from around the world to date.
CAESARS FORUM | Caesars Entertainment
Meetings and Events Growth Continues with Expansions and New Spaces
Gaming industry veteran Anthony “Tony” Rodio was announced as the new CEO of Caesars Entertainment in April 2019 and arrives as Caesars soars on game-changing investments like the $375 million CAESARS FORUM conference center.
“Since breaking ground in summer 2018, we are thrilled with milestones to date in anticipation of the 2020 opening,” said Chief Sales Officer Michael Massari. “These include securing more than 500,000 room nights, along with $150 million in conference business, and over 70 contacts signed, some with multiple years. We look forward to showing both long-time and new customers that with CAESARS FORUM, possibilities are endless.”
MGM Resorts International has wrapped a three-year expansion cycle adding more than 875,000 square feet of space at Mandalay Bay, ARIA, Park MGM and MGM Grand.
According to Chief Sales Officer Michael Dominguez, drivers included creating more “pivot and flexibility” for booking longer-term association groups, a key strategic focus, alongside MGM’s core shorter-term corporate and major tradeshow business.
MGM Grand Conference Center | Credit: Anthony Mair
- Dominguez called current global M&A levels in areas including tech, pharma and finance “the most disruptive force in our industry right now.” While creating some cancellations and relocations, mergers mean bigger meetings. This favors MGM, now offering four million square feet of space.
- MGM continually invests in next-generation Wi-Fi power and bandwidth to maximize effectiveness for meetings.
Wynn Las Vegas is set to unveil its luxurious new convention center in March 2020.
“Situated on our golf course, which reopens in late 2019, the views alone set it apart,” said Steve Blanner, senior vice president, hotel sales for Wynn and Encore. “Groups step from the 85,000-square-foot pillarless ballroom onto the 380-foot terrace, or the 40,000-square-foot outdoor space, and see only green and hear only birds.” He added that when previewing the venue, one client called it “the antidote to Vegas hustle and bustle.”
Banner also praised corporate America for continuing to choose face-to-face over virtual meetings. “We are glad that CEOs realize the value of getting everybody in one room around one message,” he said.
Offering 100,000 square feet of renovated space, 1,470-room Tropicana Las Vegas is optimistic about continuing its seven-year group uplift.
“Current pacing is ahead of 2018, with lead volume slightly increased for the same time period and multiple large short-term programs coming through,” said Gavin Mealiffe, vice president of sales for the DoubleTree by Hilton property. “These are good signs for 2019.”
Key investments for staying ahead include:
- New venues, such as upscale Trago Lounge, available for partial and full buyouts.
- New experiences such as Legends in Concert, the longest running show in Las Vegas, featuring top tribute artists performing as Lady Gaga, Elvis and more.
- Planned guest room and convention center renovations, slated for later this year.
Treasure Island Hotel and Casino (TI), is experiencing significant meetings and event growth from its newly expanded convention space.
“We are accommodating larger and more diversified groups,” said Don Voss, vice president, hotel sales and marketing, who is excited about the increased attention that the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion and other nearby developments will bring TI’s way. “With smaller groups of 30 to 60 delegates at our core, we flexibly accommodate repeat and new customers across all market segments. Fortune 500 opportunities pick up during stronger times, but we are well positioned regardless of economic volatility.”
Trend-wise, Voss sees the following:
- Planners desire to maintain their commission as well as reduce and/or eliminate extra fees introduced in Vegas in recent years. Voss said TI stays consistent on several fronts, including always paying 10 percent commission to qualified planners. It never charges for parking, and doesn’t plan to. It always negotiates resort fees based on catering requirements, travel dates and other factors to help meet budget targets.
- More planners are requesting package pricing over a la carte for catering and A/V. TI continues to offer both options.
- Planners want the quickest possible RFP response. Exclusive to TI’s website, the new technology provides smaller groups with immediate access to confirm room rates and booking rooms online.
The Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino’s Resurgence
Jeannine is one of 580 (out of 2,200) employees with 20 or more years of service at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. Some date to the resort’s 1969 debut as the International.
“We feel a kindred connection to this building,” the 27-year veteran said.
Times were not always kind. In 2012, faded from its Las Vegas Hilton and Elvis Presley glory years, the building went into foreclosure. Demolition loomed, until Florida-based timeshare titan David Siegel acquired the property in 2014.
Elvis Presley statue in Westgate lobby | Credit: Jeff Heilman
Five years and $250 million in continuing improvements later, the landmark is flourishing under the caring, loving style of new President and General Manager Cami Christensen (see Women of Westgate, page 18).
There’s much to love about the 2,800-room resort.
Adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center with its own Monorail stop, the Westgate offers 225,000 square feet of versatile ground-level space. Venues include the 42,000-square-foot Pavilion, with 40-foot ceilings, and 70,000-square-foot Paradise Event Center. Three palatial Sky Villas, Elvis’s converted former suite among them, provide the wow factor for corporate functions.
With legendary teppanyaki temple Benihana Village and top-rated Edge Steakhouse among the culinary draws, amenities include the wildly popular SuperBook, outdoor pool with cabanas and Serenity Spa.
Playing on Elvis’ former stage through October 2019, Barry Manilow recently celebrated his 500th show at the International Theater.
How Sports Are Expanding the Las Vegas Economy
Delivering the GMID ’19 keynote at Luxor’s HyperX Esports Arena, Jeremy Aguero, principal with leading Nevada research firm Applied Analysis, provided compelling insight into national recognition of Vegas’ broadening sports market.
“It’s not like this happened overnight,” said the fourth-generation Las Vegan, citing long-running events like the National Finals Rodeo, with 171,000-plus attendees.
Recent developments, such as the Vegas Golden Knights’ electrifying first season run to the Stanley Cup Finals, have amplified national awareness. Scheduled for 2020, Las Vegas Stadium is likely destined for Super Bowl hosting and more.
In April, the renamed Las Vegas Aviators inaugurated their new 10,000-seat, $150 million ballpark in Summerlin. Fandom and impact run community-wide, from the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces and USL’s FC Lights to UNLV athletics and youth leagues.
From corporate suites to special events, the many intersections with meetings, conventions and trade shows are rapidly evolving the sports market.
“It’s not just about the event or game day,” Aguero said. “It’s about everything that goes with the business of sports. Vegas knows how to activate this community—our ability to leverage existing assets is 1+1=3.”
Topgolf Las Vegas has been a sweet spot for groups since opening at MGM Grand in May 2016.
“Topgolf reinvented traditional welcome and closing receptions, teambuilding events and meetings. Incorporating social components, our multi-functional golfing facility transforms standard cocktail hours, board meetings and other gatherings into experiences,” said Director of Operations Mark Jarvis. “Uniquely experiential and competitive, our brand really resonates with Vegas groups seeking something different.”
Jarvis also explained that Topgolf employs hundreds of associates, which also helps deliver significant local economic impact.
Full 3,000-person buyouts are available, and other flexible meeting spaces include the 40-capacity private Hublot Chairman’s Suite. Topgolf also hosts concerts in Toyota Yard and buffet-style dining in the hitting bays for breakout sessions. Groups can even customize the interior and exterior branding, logos and activations.
Topgolf is always evolving, too. “Toptracer is a new technology that helps guests enhance their game with real time playback and stats,” Jarvis explained. “We tapped into the gaming industry with our top-floor TCL Lounge. We’re always trying new ideas to bring fresh faces to the venue and keep clients coming back year after year.”
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