The numbers don’t lie. With 950 flights arriving daily at McCarran International Airport, and more than 150,000 hotel rooms available — most of them dedicated to the meeting and convention market — it’s not hard to understand the appeal of Las Vegas as one of the world’s top conference and incentive destinations.
Research released by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority (LVCVA) found that meeting attendance increased an average of 9% when shows rotated into Las Vegas, while attendance decreased 4% when shows rotated out of the city. Further, the LVCVA’s research found that attendees actually spend more time on a show floor in Las Vegas — 11.3 hours versus an average of 8.6 hours in other cities. And with the city’s McCarran International Airport evolving into one of the best-connected in the U.S., with scheduled service from Europe, Asia and South America, the sheer convenience of Las Vegas becomes inescapable when selecting a meeting location.
“Las Vegas is ideally situated for our domestic attendees, as well as those coming in from overseas,” says Mitch Neuhauser, managing director of CinemaCon, the annual event of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), held in Las Vegas for the last nine years. “Also, as our show is dependent on the support of Hollywood film studios, close proximity to Los Angeles is a key factor.” Since 2011, CinemaCon has been the largest annual gathering for the cinema industry — drawing 7,500 attendees from around the world earlier this year.
CinemaCon’s base hotel is Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, with overflow spilling into accommodations at Flamingo Las Vegas and Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. Caesars offers 300,000 sf of meeting space — sufficient to hold all of CinemaCon’s events — plus, Caesars is home to the 4,100-seat Colosseum, which has proven ideal for star-studded special presentations at CinemaCon each year.
“CinemaCon incorporates a trade show, sponsored food events, seminars and special presentations held in the Colosseum,” Neuhauser says. “What makes Caesars Entertainment a great fit for our show is that everything we need is self-contained on its property. Attendees do not need to go outside. No outside transportation is needed. And, once attendees figure out the logistics of Caesars Palace — which as we all know is pretty large and expansive — well, then they can just jockey from one event and location to the next. This makes everything time efficient.”
From the beginning of CinemaCon, Neuhauser said he knew that a state-of-the-art, working theater was essential for the success of the event.
“Aside from the trade show space, the lifeblood of our show is the special presentations and feature length screenings put on by Hollywood studios,” Neuhauser adds. “We needed a place that would make not only top-level execs happy, but filmmakers and actors and actresses as well — when it came to showing their footage. The Colosseum is a perfect fit with its seating capacity, technical capabilities and staff, allowing us to showcase everything perfectly.” Neuhauser says without Caesars committing the Colosseum to CinemaCon, the show wouldn’t go on. “So that’s a unique requirement and accommodation.”
Neuhauser continues: “We’re a very visual type of show, with new movies needing to be showcased in so many ways. Caesars has always been open to us pushing the boundaries of what we can do within the hotel. Not only do we completely take over the conference center, but we have gotten approval to do things within public spaces that Caesars Entertainment never approved or did before. They are really good partners in this way.”
CinemaCon attendees can look forward to an even better experience at the Colosseum, as technical and design upgrades were recently introduced. Upgrades include a new state-of-the-art sound system, new moving light fixtures and a high-definition LED video wall, and refurbished seating. The enhanced design preserves the integrity and celebrated character of the iconic theater, with no seat more than 145 feet from the stage.
Neuhauser says CinemaCon has a “very demanding and unforgiving clientele,” and yet, the Caesars team delivers.
“The staff loves our show because we are fun,” he adds. “We bring full-on show business and fun to the hotel, and every department loves it. We’re a great breath of fresh air for them and I think they go the extra mile for us. From the front of the house to housekeeping, to room service and catering — everything stands out.”
Neuhauser says he does sometimes hear from attendees that the five towers at Caesars require too much walking or that locations are too far from one other. And F&B costs can be steep. “The hotel does work with us and it’s always fun to get into the ring with the catering staff to duke it out, but in the end it all works out. The quality of the food is very good and the chef always works with us to create innovative, different and tasty menus for all of our events.”
Neuhauser adds, “Aside from holding all of our events inside Caesars Palace, we do use OMNIA nightclub, which is fantastic,” Neuhauser says. “The ambience is great, and I know you may not believe this, but their food is incredibly good. Many companies attending our show use all of the restaurants in house and as well in the Forum Shops for private events.”
Finally, he says, “Oh, and let’s not forget the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis. This is huge, and it’s a great place for parties and events for our company attendees. For our needs, Caesars Entertainment really has it all.”
The company will have even more to offer with the debut of CAESARS FORUM, a $375 million conference facility that will provide direct access to 8,500 hotel rooms at Harrah’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, The LINQ Hotel + Experience and Flamingo Las Vegas. Adjacent to the High Roller observation wheel, the facility will offer more than 300,000 sf of flexible meeting space, including the two largest pillar-less ballrooms in the world, each 110,000 sf, and more than 100 breakout rooms. Caesars Entertainment reports that in the last 18 months more than 125 contracts for meetings and events have been signed, with 75 percent of those contracts representing new business.
With 4 million sf of meeting and convention space within a 2-mile stretch on the Las Vegas Strip, MGM Resorts remains the dominant player for the meetings market. Over the last two years, 850,000 sf of meeting space has been added at ARIA Resort & Casino, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Las Vegas and Park MGM Las Vegas. With its increased flexibility, the new meeting space allows for more robust and creative meeting options to meet the ever-changing needs for collaborative and productive work spaces.
Last year, the MGM Grand expanded its conference center by 250,000 sf in a $130 million expansion. Also last year, Park MGM debuted a new 77,000-sf conference space with a combination of innovative non-traditional spaces, an outdoor terrace and flexible design, filling an unmet need in Las Vegas for small groups, while also offering spaces to host up to 5,000 attendees in the Park Theater. The venue features Las Vegas’ first executive Meeting Center, which includes The Conference Center, The Madison Meeting Center, and The Ideation Studio — high-touch, high-tech meeting venues designed to maximize productivity for small groups. While at Park MGM, don’t miss the new Mama Rabbit bar, featuring the country’s most extensive collection of tequila and mezcal, in collaboration with James Beard Award-winning mezcal pioneer, Bricia Lopez.
The former SLS Las Vegas is once again operating under the resort’s original, iconic brand name, SAHARA Las Vegas. Since the property changed hands last year, the resort has been overhauled through a $150 million renovation that includes an updated casino floor, the Infinity premium gaming lounge, refurbished hotel rooms, suites and corridors, an upgraded spa, new hotel lobby, remodeled porte cochère and a full renovation of the resort’s main pool.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the Strip, the venerable Tropicana Las Vegas – a DoubleTree by Hilton is preparing for a soft renovation of its 100,000-sf convention center and all guest rooms, slated to begin in the first quarter of 2020. The resort, which offers points for meeting planners, has also added three new F&B options during the last two years.
The headliner is Robert Irvine’s Public House, a partnership with the Food Network that gives the titular chef a chance to provide his spin on American pub cuisine. The 300-seat venue has a private room that holds up to 100 patrons, providing two options for groups to take over the space. Next door, the casual Red Lotus Asian Kitchen serves soups and noodle dishes with roots in the cuisine of China, Vietnam, Thailand and Korea. Earlier this year the Tropicana debuted Trago Lounge, a high-end redo of the former Tropicana Lounge, located off the Legends in Concert Theater, home to the longest running show in Las Vegas. Trago specializes in craft cocktails, a beautiful selection of bourbons and scotch whiskeys, and the venue is available for full or partial buyouts.
“The perfect size for us is 500 to 700 peak night rooms,” says Gavin Mealiffe, vice president of sales for Tropicana. “It’s a perfect fit, because it means almost a complete takeover of the 806-room Club Tower. That’s a huge benefit for groups — it’s away from the casino, the tower sits on top of meeting space, and they can take over that entire space.”
Joseph F. Ferstl, DC, FACO, past president of the Illinois Chiropractic Society, past president of the American College of Chiropractic Orthopedics and a Fellow of the International College of Chiropractors, said he originally chose the Tropicana for the organization’s annual seminar because the hotel had been newly renovated.
“They’re not too crowded, where you have to wait in long lines to check in or to eat,” Ferstl says. “Also, the room tower for the convention area is very close to the convention rooms so the walk to the seminar is short. The Tropicana has a great location with the airport being so close to the hotel, and the large airport handles a lot of non-stop flights so our attendees can fly there with ease.”
Ferstl adds: “We used the convention space at the Tropicana. It’s very large, but they also have multiple dividers so we had the space we needed, and they also supplied a board room for our board to meet. The function spaces can be divided to fit any needs and they do have large and small rooms. Planners need to know the Tropicana will work with them on the space, dates and food — we have had no complaints.”
Ferstl says the biggest challenge he has had with booking rooms for the seminar was competitive pricing. “Some of our registered attendees could stay across the street if the rooms are cheaper, or at other hotels where they might be members for gambling,” he explains. “The Tropicana countered that with very low room night charges which helped a lot. The hotel went out of their way to get us whatever we needed for the seminars, and we have returned for five seminars with two more under contract.”
Situated in the Truckee Valley, close to Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains, Reno is Nevada’s second-largest city. And while Reno may not have quite the flash of the Las Vegas Strip, the destination still provides unexpected activities such as tackling the world’s tallest outdoor rock-climbing wall at Whitney Peak Hotel or a beer tasting at Great Basin Brewing Co., the oldest brewery in Nevada.
Derek Piasecki, president of the American Association of Police Polygraphists (AAPP), says his group has a methodical process for choosing locations for its Annual Seminar Week, three years in advance.
“Every year we rotate between five different U.S. regions, and this year was the year for the Pacific Northwest,” Piasecki says. “We have a company called NHS which does all our bids. They put out feelers for the areas — they look at the weather, and how easy it is to access from around the country, etc. We then narrow it to three different options for our members to vote on, and for this year, Reno was chosen over Portland and Seattle.”
“One thing that stood out,” Piasecki recalls, “weather-wise, Reno is beautiful in May.” While almost as arid as Las Vegas, the higher elevation of Reno means milder temperatures year-round — it’s a true, four-season destination, with average daily highs in summer edging just above 90 degrees and plenty of sunshine in winter.
For their event, the polygraphists chose the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, the only Reno property directly connected to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center via skybridge. The newly refurbished convention center has five exhibit halls, 381,000 sf of contiguous exhibit space and 53 meeting rooms.
AAPP says the 450-attendee meeting had few unusual requirements, except for bringing in some of the trade show materials. “They needed to receive several palates of displays for vendors coming in,” Piasecki says. “A lot of the stuff comes in Friday and they start setting up on Saturday. But the vendors couldn’t have access until Saturday, so the staff had to sign for everything coming in.”
While the bulk of the meeting took place at the convention center, there were also events at Atlantis. The resort’s 50,000 sf meeting space is on the second floor and includes two ballrooms measuring up to 14,261 sf, with accompanying breakout rooms, an executive boardroom and a business center.
“There was a Sunday welcome reception with food and a cash bar,” Piasecki says. “The food was excellent and they made more than we contracted for so we didn’t run out. On Wednesday, we have an awards luncheon, and the food was excellent, again with no issues. As far as A/V, we have our own projectors and microphones, and we ship it in ahead. The hotel set up the projectors, sound board, power supplies and we just pay a patch fee. Atlantis was really good to work with.”
“A lot of our members don’t necessarily enjoy meeting in a casino,” Piasecki adds. “But what I like is having a selection of different restaurants and things to do. The meeting space was all in one area, and centrally located — a great thing. A lot of our attendees were able to get out and see the downtown area, or go to Lake Tahoe.”
One of Reno’s key assets?
“No. 1 advantage of Reno is the airport. It’s one of easiest airports I’ve ever been through in terms of arrivals and departures. And, at the airport’s Wheel of Fortune slot machine I won $600. I didn’t want to leave at that point,” he laughs.
Reno is also home to Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, which offers more than 200,000 sf of meeting space and can accommodate events with as few as 10 people to as many as 4,000. And their recreation staff is primed and ready to help plan on-site, team-building activities.
Also in Reno, Peppermill Resort Spa Casino has an 82,000-sf casino, 106,000 sf of meeting and entertainment space, two resort pools, 10 award-winning restaurants and a world-class spa and fitness center. | AC&F |