Tanisha Bibbs, CMP, director of event planning at the Alternative & Direct Investment Securities Association (ADISA) in Indianapolis, recognizes that Las Vegas offers a wealth of meeting and event planning options for associations of all types and sizes.
In September 2015, ADISA held their annual conference with more than 900 attendees in Las Vegas. “The biggest draw of bringing a meeting or event to Las Vegas is definitely the abundance of restaurants and entertainment options in the city,” Bibbs says.
Like Bibbs, Stephanie Hudson, meeting manager of the Marietta, Georgia-based Professional Pricing Society, sees Las Vegas as a good locale because of the diverse options the city offers for events and meetings.
“There is a hotel for a small group of 50 or a large group of several thousand,” Hudson says. “Even though some of the hotels are massive, some hotels can have a space where a group of 500 can be in their own little world. Most of the meeting space for a group can be on one level so groups don’t have travel on different levels in between breakouts and meals.” Hudson’s most recent meeting that she planned for the Professional Pricing Society included about 450 participants at Encore at Wynn Las Vegas.
“I have seen a meeting double in size because it was being held in Las Vegas.”
— Kim Bergeron
“The group had the entire section of the Encore hotel for the conference and never had to leave,” Hudson says. “Normally the group would have an offsite reception but decided to have it on the patio at the Encore immediately after the last session; therefore allowing attendees to have an early evening to enjoy time on their own in the city. Some hotels may be huge where they feel like a city within a city, but you can still have your own section for your group and not have to run into other groups depending on how the conference program is set up.”
“The weather is also ideal and averages 320 days of great weather and less than five inches of precipitation annually,” says Kevin Fliess, vice president of product marketing at Tysons Corner, Virginia-based Cvent. “The warm, dry climate makes Las Vegas an attractive option year-round. When attendees aren’t at the event, no place can match Las Vegas for entertainment.”
Gil Bowen, administrator at Carolinas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Office, based in Wilmington, North Carolina, plans his association’s meetings. He says Las Vegas offers something for everyone. “Las Vegas offers a wide variety of outstanding hotels, shows and nightlife to keep attendees busy after business hours,” says Bowen, who helped plan the association’s recent conference at Wynn Las Vegas, which hosted approximately 300 attendees.
Jeffrey Cesari, CMP, president and creative director of Wilmington, Delaware-based Industrious Meetings, sees Las Vegas as a great destination for many types of meetings. He has managed several large corporate meetings and association conventions in Las Vegas.
“One of the big reasons we like Las Vegas is we can gather delegates in the same hotel and with enough meeting space under one roof,” Cesari says. “And airlift into Las Vegas is great — serving major U.S. and international cities — which means easier travel for folks flying into the city. We also find many delegates will pre- or post-extend in Las Vegas to explore the city or area attractions, like a trip to the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, etc.”
Says Kim Bergeron, program director at HelmsBriscoe ResourceOne in Tempe, Arizona, “One of the large draws to Las Vegas is the entertainment factor. An association is able to draw more attendees to their events with the ‘lure’ of the Las Vegas nightlife. Las Vegas is a 24-hour city with something to do around every corner. Most people want to go to Las Vegas, but cannot justify the expense for a weekend trip, however, add a conference and there is the justification. I have seen a meeting double in size because it was being held in Las Vegas.”
Aside from the entertainment and gambling, the options for meetings are endless. As Bergeron explains, Las Vegas has 167 hotels with more than 140,000 sleeping rooms, more than 3 million sf of convention space and more than 10 million sf of meeting, event and trade show space. The average hotel room rate is $92, making the location affordable for any budget. Most hotels are within four miles of the Las Vegas Convention Center and The Strip is only two miles from the airport. There is literally something for everyone.
Las Vegas has been ranked as the No. 1 trade show destination in North America over the past two decades. And it offers much more than just meeting space.
Las Vegas reached record visitation in 2015 welcoming 42.3 million visitors, a 2.9 percent increase from 2014. Convention attendance was a primary driver of that growth, increasing 13.4 percent, according to a Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) commissioned Economic Impact Study by Applied Analysis. The report also shows that the convention industry continues to be valued for its positive impact on average daily room rates and helps smooth out seasonality associated with leisure travel.
Las Vegas resorts host more than 22,000 events, meetings, conventions and incentive programs annually, and their expertise in the service industry is world-class. No matter the size of the group, Las Vegas has the flexibility to tailor space to accommodate any event and is built for scalability from small to enormous events.
Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the LVCVA, stated, “We are encouraged by the continued strength and growth of the tourism industry particularly in the meetings and convention sector. As a destination, we look forward to building on this momentum in the coming years. We need to ensure that we continue to provide the world-class experience and facilities our visitors have come to expect.”
Las Vegas is a great option for meeting planners because they don’t have to schedule every minute of every day, adds Chris Meyer, vice president of global business sales for the LVCVA. “Meetings in Las Vegas in particular are better attended because attendees know that restaurants, shows and the casinos are still going to be there when they finish their business,” he says. “So they are able to get their business done without fear of missing out on all the excitement the city has to offer.”
While of course Las Vegas has earned an unsurpassed reputation as a premier gaming destination, that’s not all that it offers, Meyer adds.
“What meeting planners might be surprised to find is that gaming resorts now offer a wide array of world-class dining, shopping, entertainment and outdoor experiences that expand beyond the casino floor‚” he says. “Las Vegas makes a planner’s job easier because there is such a diverse collection of amenities that are available to every demographic.”
Meyer notes that the town was built to host visitors and has decades of experience when it comes to customer service.
“Las Vegas resorts continually evolve to meet the needs of the visitors — both leisure and business,” he says. “It is a destination that is about the overall experience and not one specific amenity.” Meyer encourages planners to reach out to the LVCVA when beginning the process of planning a meeting.
“We are the destination experts, and no meeting size is too big or too small,” he says. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority staff is very knowledgeable and can assist planners with identifying the venues that are ideal for association meetings based on the type of group and their needs.
“So many hotels renovate and make changes and the LVCVA can give you updates on the latest changes and offsite venues,” Hudson says.
And as a city that continues to evolve, it is imperative to keep track of the “latest and greatest” updates, additions and renovations happening in Las Vegas.
MGM Resorts International recently unveiled The Park, a vibrant outdoor dining and entertainment district celebrating the beauty of the surrounding desert landscape and offering visitors a new way to experience the Las Vegas Strip. Located between New York-New York and Monte Carlo resorts, The Park is designed as a social gathering space where guests can experience stunning design elements, a fun culinary lineup boasting great indoor/outdoor environments, iconic art and playful entertainment.
The Park serves as the gateway to the new 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena. In addition to featuring a venue with a 20,000 capacity, the T-Mobile Arena also offers a wealth of event spaces for rent — ideal options for small and larger gatherings.
Aria Resort & Casino has long been considered one of North America’s premier destinations for large-scale meetings and events. As such, Aria will be expanding its convention center to deliver an additional 200,000 sf of state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor meeting spaces. With this new addition, Aria will boast more than 500,000 sf of meeting space , and is expected to be completed in February 2018.
Wynn Las Vegas and Encore together have 260,000 sf of beautiful and unique settings for any size meeting or convention. Amenities aplenty, Wynn also offers Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers, a music spectacular featuring a reinvented collection of songs and dances. Voted “Best New Show” in Las Vegas, ShowStoppers brings a vibrant and talented cast of 66 singers, dancers and a full orchestra with dazzling scenery and costumes to the intimate Encore Theater.
Wynn’s most recent news is word that a new entertainment destination — named Wynn Paradise Park for now — built around a first-ever recreational lake concept has been proposed by the chairman and CEO himself — Steve Wynn. Subject to approval by the company’s board of directors, the new destination will take the place of the golf course and is expected to include a 38-acre lagoon surrounded by premium meetings and convention space, a 1,000-room hotel tower, a small casino and extensive dining and nightlife.
“We have a chance to reinvent Las Vegas and make the whole venue an entertainment attraction…an idyllic beach paradise surrounded by white sand beaches,” stated Wynn. “People come to Las Vegas from all over the world to live large and have a good time and we can dish up an irresistible entertainment attraction.”
The proposed lagoon will be lined by a white sand beach and boardwalk and feature an array of daytime activities including water skiing, paddleboarding and parasailing. At night, the space will transform with an elaborate fireworks display that is launched from the center island and surrounding areas.
The park will add 260,000 sf of premium meeting space with unobstructed views of the waterfront, spacious guest rooms with a separate bedroom, living room and balcony, and a variety of restaurants, including an expansion of the current Country Club restaurant.
Not only that, but Wynn also is developing Wynn Plaza, an expansive retail complex featuring nearly 80,000 sf of luxury retail space. Debuting fall 2017, the complex will augment the existing luxury retail collection currently showcased at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore as well as bring the shopping experience to the high traffic area bordering Las Vegas Boulevard.
Also located at Wynn, the Encore Player’s Club features luxurious lounge seating with tables all equipped with Suzo Happ InteractivePro tables; roulette, craps, blackjack and slots; mobile sports betting; a specialty cocktail program; a DJ booth; a shuffleboard table and Blatt billiards table.
Caesars Palace also offers an amazing casino and meeting space experience. Its 300,000 sf of meeting space is comfortably set apart from the casino area, yet remains within easy reach of attendees. Caesars Palace offers a large range of flexible venues with countless configuration options to suit groups of all sizes. In addition to traditional meeting venues within Caesars, the site’s 4,100-seat Colosseum boasts one of the world’s largest LED screens, a perfect location for presentations that really “wow.”
Caesars Entertainment Corporation announced plans to upgrade more than 4,800 hotel rooms this year at four of its Las Vegas resorts. These resort upgrades include the transformation of the original tower at Caesars Palace to create the Julius Tower as well as the refurbishment of the resort’s Augustus Tower. Additional room upgrades will include Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Paris Las Vegas and Harrah’s Las Vegas.
To meet the ever-growing needs of convention managers and attendees, the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Convention Center recently completed its expansion with the opening of the 70,000-sf Oceanside Ballroom. The $70 million expansion includes 350,000 sf of new exhibit space, a 20,000-sf foyer and underground parking. Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino also completed the final phase of its resort-wide remodel of more than 3,000 guest rooms and suites. Created by the MGM Resorts International Design Group, the redesigned rooms and suites feature refreshing color palettes and modern designs in three distinct collections.
Likewise, The Tropicana Las Vegas offers more than 100,000 sf of flexible meeting and exhibition space in a convenient location on The Strip just minutes from the airport, major convention centers and top entertainment stadiums. After a recent expansion, their all-new conference facility is divisible into as many as 38 breakout rooms and includes a 25,000-sf ballroom, a 55,000-sf pavilion that is perfect for large general sessions and exhibits, and elaborate venues such as the Havana Room and Beach Club.
If hosting a meeting or event outside The Strip is more apropos, The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa is a magnificent desert hotel where natural splendor meets luxurious accommodations. The idyllic full-service resort accommodates groups from 15 to 2,100 guests. The Westin also offers completely customizable conference facilities, including more than 50,000 sf of exterior meeting spaces.
For many convention attendees, personalization is key. That’s why MGM Grand Hotel & Casino is personalizing the attendees’ journeys by creating meaningful content based by integrating customization and enhanced technology to personalize service at every touch point from pre-arrival to arrival to departure. MGM Grand’s new Skylofts features a personal concierge who asks upcoming guests a series of questions prior to arrival to ensure room, mini-bar and travel preferences are met. Those choices are then documented and saved so when the guests return, everything is as if they never left.
Located in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino features all-suite accommodations, exquisite restaurants by celebrity chefs and world-class entertainment and shopping. The luxury resort offers 4,028 elegant suites, including standard suites that are nearly double the size of the average Las Vegas hotel room. The resort also features Canyon Ranch SpaClub; a five-acre pool and garden deck; Tao nightclub; the Grand Canal Shoppes retail and dining mecca; and a 120,000-sf casino and The Strip’s largest poker room. The Venetian, The Palazzo and Sands Expo complex offers more than 2.25 million sf of meeting and convention space.
Entertainment and Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, a legendary world-class destination, offers a unique blend of amenities and excitement with table games, slots, restaurants, and more than 225,000 sf of meeting space and the world’s largest race and sports SuperBook. The property features entertainment options in the International Theater and the Westgate Cabaret. Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino is currently undergoing a $100 million renovation that will encompass every square inch of the property including the addition of 300 timeshare villas, the all-new International Bar, a fully renovated pool deck, 1,200 remodeled Signature Rooms and more.
It’s vital for association meeting and event planners considering Las Vegas to firm up a budget before deciding on any property, as there are so many options — many of the newer and more popular properties can be higher priced than others. You will want to know what you can afford prior to your search.
“Go to Las Vegas for a site visit and tour the conference space and hotel,” Bergeron advises. Most of the major hotels and resorts have vast conference centers on multiple levels. You’ll want to make sure the meeting space is not so complicated that you will lose attendees because they could not find the meeting rooms. This is from experience: The space provided looked easy enough to find looking at the map but in reality we could not provide enough signage to help get attendees to the space.
“Lastly, be prepared to find an additional hotel for overflow rooms,” Bergeron says. “Las Vegas hotels sell out quickly and every meeting I have done in Las Vegas has required an overflow hotel.” AC&F