It will not be a shock to anyone who has attended a meeting in Las Vegas that the city was named the World’s Leading Meeting & Conference Destination in the World Travel Awards. Four of the city’s hotels are listed among the top 10 U.S. properties in Cvent’s Top 100 Meeting Hotels list for 2017, and the city itself came in at No. 3 on Cvent’s Top 50 U.S. Meetings Destinations in 2016. For the 23rd year in a row, Las Vegas was named as the No. 1 trade show destination in the country by Trade Show News Network, with 57 of the 250 largest trade shows, which is more shows than the next two destinations — Orlando and Chicago — hosted combined. A record 6.3 million delegates traveled to Las Vegas in 2016 to attend meetings and conventions — with good reason.
The Nevada mecca has reinvented itself many times over the years, but positioning itself as the quintessential place to hold a meeting, convention or expo may be one of its most successful efforts. And yet, among those who aren’t so familiar with its merits, the city still suffers from the erroneous perception that it’s all play and no work. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, it offers many places and ways to play; however, business is serious business in Las Vegas, and that includes delivering a lot to corporations for the money spent.
Angela Baer, CMP, corporate meeting planner with Caterpillar Inc., points to numerous reasons that Las Vegas worked well for CONEXPO/CON-AGG 2017, an event in March that drew 4,000-plus attendees. The base hotel for Caterpillar’s group was Caesars Palace.
To start, Baer says, the convention center is expansive enough to meet the needs of very large groups. But in addition, she adds, “Caesars Palace is also a good fit because our company can get all our attending employees, show workers, dealers and customers in the same hotel. It has enough sleeping rooms to accommodate our group size. We also have enough convention space at Caesars to do many functions and meetings; both Caterpillar and our dealers utilize this space.” In fact, Caterpillar held all of its functions and events at Caesars.
But it’s not just about the right size. Baer calls the Caesars space and staff “excellent” and points to the convenience of access to the company’s other properties. “You can utilize all 10 of the Caesars properties for events, which counts toward the F&B minimum. And there are lots of options in addition to basic meeting rooms and ballrooms.”
She says there is also a great deal of value added to having everyone in one place. “Networking opportunities are priceless, so getting my entire group into one hotel is key. We were able to negotiate a rate that allowed us to save money on sleeping rooms thereby allowing our guests to all be under one roof.”
None of this was surprising to Baer. “We’ve had an excellent relationship with Caesars for over 20 years,” she says. “But even so, if the service wasn’t there, we’d look elsewhere.”
There’s no need for that, however. “They are all incredible to work with and they make our team look good,” she says. “I’ve worked closely on several events with Frank Gregory and Mary Ferris in the catering department. Matt Waltersdorf and Marie Lee on the sales side are fantastic. And Jessica Roya in registrations is my saving grace!”
In terms of layout, Baer says, “Event space is the most accessible from the Palace tower. I always have staff stay there. It is actually being renovated as we speak, so soon it will be the most up-to-date tower Caesars has. I put my executives in the Augustus and Octavius towers, which are part of the Laurel Collection. These towers are VIP-driven and easily accessible for any security you may have. You don’t have to go through the casino to access them.”
She also notes that there is a venue for every need. “We have run the spectrum of events from small board meetings to full-on rock concerts. Ballrooms have tons of space for rigging, staging, etc. And the décor and function space are neutral and nice for events.”
For planners who have not been to the hotel, she says, “It’s huge. You will get your steps in staying here! But that’s true of any property that offers a large amount of space. I find Caesars easy to navigate once you get to know it. Convention space is in one area, the casino is in the middle, shops and restaurants are on one end and guest-room towers are located throughout.” In spite of its size, she says, “It’s nice as everything you need is right there.”
And the location works well for groups, too. “Caesars is very central, which is helpful for staff and guests. It’s easy walking distance to most locations on The Strip. And,” she adds, “Caesars convention staff will help with planning from beginning to end. I would recommend Caesars for large or small groups. Everyone will be made to feel like a VIP.”
Toyota set its Prius launch event at Caesars Palace and the Linq Hotel. Brian Hords, founder, o2 Creative Solutions, worked with Toyota on the 2015 event for 550 attendees.
“We chose the location based on a larger Toyota event that was happening concurrently. The company’s national dealer meeting was taking place at Mandalay Bay, a private event for its dealer network. We needed to be close in proximity, as the cars we were revealing needed to be at the other venue the next day. We were also looking for a highly visible and attractive location for the international press that Toyota was bringing in for this event,” he says.
Some media were housed at Caesars Palace. Others were at the Linq. Hords says the Linq was chosen “based on its central location on the Strip and its relative newness for journalists and media. It also offered a great rooftop venue with views of The Strip. Another deciding factor was the large architectural LED media surfaces that allowed us a large-scale mediascape.”
As for challenges, Hords notes, “Freight access to the rooftop is limited. We had to load three vehicles and all the rigging for our staging and stunt from a crane that blocked a portion of Las Vegas Blvd.” Challenges aside, Hords calls the Linq a “great venue for a large-scale, media-rich event.”
Some companies want to be in Las Vegas but not necessarily on The Strip. Quest Software chose Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas for its Sales Kickoff FY 18 in February 2017, with 1,250 in attendance. Christy Kallinger, director global sales enablement with Quest, says of Vegas, “It’s great because of the level of service you get for the cost. And Las Vegas has just about everything you could ask for at all different price points. It is also an easy destination for most people to get to.”
She says the city added to the conference ROI because of “lower flight costs and overall lower costs for the high level of service, which allowed us to get more for our money.”
“We were able to do a hotel buyout and take advantage of the Las Vegas location, but we were not in the middle of The Strip. We loved the Hard Rock.”
— Christy Kallinger
The Hard Rock provided an excellent base. “We were able to do a hotel buyout and take advantage of the Las Vegas location, but we were not in the middle of The Strip. We loved the Hard Rock,” Kallinger says. “No.1 reason was the staff. Michael Rowland and Lia Rispoli and their staff were some of the very best we have ever worked with. Second, the hotel was ours for the week. We were able to do a lot of branding and we had a lot of flexibility to do what we needed to do in the meeting space. Lastly, we loved the whole rock ‘n’ roll theme. The Joint and Vinyl were unique venues to hold meetings in.”
The group had some regional dinners offsite. Kallinger says the favorites were Top Golf and Brooklyn Bowl, which she calls excellent venues for team dinners and activities.
But the Hard Rock itself really delivered for the group. “What we loved about this hotel was how close everything was. The food was excellent. The meeting spaces were great and flexible. The hotel guest rooms were really nice and the pool area provided an ideal space in which to hold our party. The décor was perfect for our rock ‘n’ roll theme.”
The weather, however, didn’t fully cooperate. “We ended up having bad weather for our outdoor party at the pool,” Kallinger says, “but Lia Rispoli and team very quickly got one of the ballrooms party-ready with a DJ, and our sales reps had a great night.”
For those considering Las Vegas for a meeting, Kallinger advises, “Find a hotel that will meet your needs from the first meeting. Also, hire a DMC to help you with external events and transportation. We hired Hosts Global and they were fantastic. They helped us with transportation, our regional dinners and our party.”
As for the Hard Rock, Kallinger notes, “Mike Rowland and Lia Rispoli will go above and beyond to make your event successful.”
Ever in reinvention mode, Las Vegas and its hotels always have something new going on.
In March, Wynn Las Vegas announced a Master Class Series that will take guests behind the scenes to learn from the resort’s experts. It began in April and will continue throughout the year. Among the first options were Vintner for a Day with Wynn’s Executive Director of Wine Mark Thomas, Spin With a Star DJ, Mastering Your Most Flattering Selfie (with celebrated stylists at the Encore’s Claude Baruk Salon), and Mixology 2.0, with Wynn mixologist Damian Cross. On June 15 David Walzog, executive chef of the award-winning SW Steakhouse and Lakeside at Wynn Las Vegas will host a “Grilling With a Master” workshop, which includes an outdoor cookout class on the SW Steakhouse patio, overlooking the Lake of Dreams.
Wynn also announced the debut of Parasol Up after the venue’s extensive renovation last December. The lounge is lighter and breezier in design, and offers the latest technology as well as a new bar menu from the hotel’s master mixologist.
And this fall brings the debut of Wynn Plaza, a 75,000-sf luxury retail hub bordering Las Vegas Boulevard.
According to Steve Wynn in a late April earnings call, the Wynn board of directors has approved phase one construction of the new Wynn Paradise Park that will begin in December 2017 or January 2018. The master planned park will replace the Wynn Golf Club with a 1,000- 2,000-room hotel tower and 260,000 sf of beachfront meeting and ballroom space overlooking a 20-acre lagoon — offering water sports activities — and a white sand beach and 4,000-foot boardwalk. Cabanas, attractions and food service also are planned. The phased $1.5 billion project is slated for a 2019 completion.
As of January, guests at The Venetian, The Palazzo and Sands Expo, in conjunction with Zappos, have access to a 1,170-sf pop-up coworking lounge with room to recharge, get online, gather, collaborate and meet in small groups. There’s even a six-seat private conference room. Zappos team members are staffing the lounge, located on level two of The Venetian, and say they’ll be sharing the Zappos service philosophy of “delivering happiness with every ‘collision’ they make with a guest.” The lounge will be open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas announced a $13 million remodel of its Casino Tower, and phase one of that remodel has already wrapped up, including the renovation of 575 guest rooms. When complete, all 640 rooms and suites will have been renovated and refreshed. In May, MB Steak will debut at the Hard Rock, a collaboration of Michael and David Morton, sons of Arnie Morton, who launched Morton’s of Chicago in 1978. The hotel also announced the opening of Oyster Bar, a full-service restaurant and bar combining oyster, seafood and more with top-shelf libations. Finally, Hard Rock has added nearly 18,000 sf of meeting and convention space, including the 28,000-sf Artist Ballroom.
Set to open this winter at Caesars Palace is the first of its kind Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, inspired by the Michelin-star celebrity chef’s hit television show. Ramsay’s fifth Las Vegas restaurant promises to give diners an “immersive” experience so they “feel like they, too, are part of the show — flames and all,” Ramsay said in a statement. Hell’s Kitchen will feature dishes from the show’s cast as well as chef Ramsay’s signature creations. The restaurant will seat 300 and offer both indoor and patio dining adjacent to The Strip.
In February, MGM Resorts International and Microsoft Corp. inked a historic multiyear deal, the first of its kind for both companies. Microsoft plans to combine four of its annual events into one mega event with as many as 30,000 delegates. That event represents the largest single-corporation meeting event ever hosted by MGM Resorts, and it’s right up there with the city’s largest annual corporate group events.
Aria Resort & Casino is in the midst of a $154 million expansion of its convention center that will add 200,000 sf of technologically advanced, flexible meeting space across four stories, highlighted by stunning indoor/open-air spaces and a glass-enclosed venue with dramatic views of The Park and new T-Mobile Arena. With the completion of the expansion, Aria will feature more than 500,000 sf of meeting space. Construction began in May 2016 with anticipated completion in February 2018.
To meet the needs of their growing clientele, Mandalay Bay’s Convention Center recently expanded by 350,000 sf to a total of more than 2 million sf, enabling Mandalay Bay to accommodate existing customer growth needs as well as to attract new corporate and association business. The expansion added new exhibit space, ballrooms and underground parking, and the project creates one of the most flexible, customer-focused convention facilities in North America.
At a cost of $70 million, the expansion also included a bandwidth increase to accommodate more attendees and allow for the most advanced presentations, while allowing seamless connectivity from convention space to public spaces to guest rooms. In spring 2016, the final phase of a resort-wide remodel of more than 3,000 guest rooms and suites was completed.
Located adjacent to Mandalay Bay, the new non-smoking, all-suite luxury Delano Las Vegas hotel features 20,000 sf of indoor meeting space with 31 meeting rooms including four boardrooms. Engaging social spaces include 3940 Coffee + Tea and Della’s Kitchen, where “historic farmhouse meets urban kitchen” and the new South Beach-inspired Delano Beach Club, which groups can buy out for an evening reception. Delano’s Sage Living room, located within the four separate floors of the hotel’s meeting area, offers a chic and alternative space to gather with overstuffed couches, special chairs designed with lower-back support, end tables and coffee tables. The room, featuring two 52-inch, flat-screen TVs, can be used for presentations in a relaxed, comfortable environment.
Last year Peppermill resort in Reno celebrated 45 years in operation, serving meeting attendees and other guests. For the occasion, the resort redesigned some of its spaces and venues, including Edge, providing an intimate but vibrant nightlife experience. Lighting, soft goods and LED panels were among the changes. Six video walls were also installed throughout the property to bring the world into the resort via technology, giving guests the feeling of globetrotting while never leaving Reno. Peppermill also continues its emphasis on sustainability via a variety of dedicated practices and programs that cut energy costs and water use.
Wherever you base your meeting in Las Vegas, you can bet on one thing: There will be professional staff and services and quality facilities to accommodate and even elevate your events. Las Vegas may be a fun destination, but it definitely means business for those who arrive in the city to do business. C&IT