Stephanie Glanzer, senior vice president and chief sales officer for MGM Resorts, says it will take a while for “business as usual” in Las Vegas, and her company must adjust “to a new world.”
When you think of the Las Vegas area, what comes to mind? Awe-inspiring entertainment? Definitely. A wide array of state-of-the-art venues for meetings of all sizes? Certainly. Resorts that offer amenities aplenty? Absolutely.
With nearly 150,000 rooms, Las Vegas offers the best group value proposition in the world. Area resorts play host to 6.5 million meeting, convention and incentive delegates annually, ranging in size from 10 to more than 175,000 attendees.
However, the COVID-19 crisis has brought the good times to an abrupt halt in Las Vegas. When the pandemic hit, the casinos, resorts and restaurants closed, but area executives have been devising plans to one day soon get meetings and conventions up and running again. “We recognize that when we do reopen our doors, it won’t be entirely back to business as usual and we will be adjusting to a new world in how we do business and how we host events,” says Stephanie Glanzer, senior vice president and chief sales officer for MGM Resorts. “We have a task force in place to look at what this new guest experience will look like as it relates to safety, health and comfort while continuing to create and deliver memorable and meaningful events.”
Adds Glanzer, “We’ve made it our mission as an organization to make this process as seamless as possible for our clients. It’s not just about addressing their most immediate needs, but earning their business for years to come, long after this is behind us,” she says. “As a company, we are working closely with each of our clients to identify new future dates and conceptualize events that reflect their new business needs and potential travel patterns for their attendees.”
For Karla Singson, who has worked as an event planner, Las Vegas has been such a great option for meeting planners because there is always something for everyone in the region. “Due to the high tourist traffic, there’s options for literally every meeting type, every demographic and every budget,” Singson says. “For me, the best feature of Vegas is variety, and that’s why people of all ages, races and agendas come to Vegas for both business and pleasure.”
What usually makes Las Vegas events memorable for attendees is the plethora of unique experiences. And there are a wealth of great activities in the area for gamblers and non-gamblers alike. Some of the iconic tourist attractions, locations and activities include a visit to The Mob Museum, with exhibits and displays about all things related to The Mob; The Neon Museum, which displays dozens of iconic neon signs from Las Vegas’ past on 2.6 acres; and the thrill rides at The STRAT Hotel, Casino & SkyPod, which features the Stratosphere Tower, one of the tallest observation towers in the U.S. Other easy-to-please activities include the sushi buffets, the comedy shows and the venerable Cirque du Soleil.
Singson personally has enjoyed taking meeting and event attendees to one of the area’s machine gun shooting ranges and indoor skydiving sites. “The celebrity chef restaurants are great too,” Singson says. “Whenever I take attendees to these venues, they’re usually very pleased, and are telling all of their friends back home what a great experience they’re having.”
For Caroline Kay, owner and meeting planner at C. Kay International, historically, she has gotten a higher percentage of people to attend the conferences she manages in Las Vegas. “Las Vegas offers several benefits for meeting hosts and their guests. The convenience is unbeatable — there’s a great selection of domestic and international flights to Las Vegas and McCarran International Airport is less than 3 miles from the Las Vegas Strip,” Kay says. “There’s ample capacity and options for meeting spaces, accommodations, restaurants and nightlife. And there’s lots of sunshine.”
Kay also says that it’s easy to make events stand out in Las Vegas for guests by organizing unusual activities beyond the scope of traditional meetings. To make conferences special, Kay has organized helicopter tours over the Hoover Dam, day trips to the Grand Canyon National Park and hikes to nearby Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. “I even took a team to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to drive Lamborghinis,” Kay says. “An after party or cocktail reception at The Neon Museum is always memorable. In Las Vegas, attendees can see amazing live entertainment, enjoy a spa, and choose from amazing eating and drinking options. The choices are endless.”
Starting the day with a private flight over the Grand Canyon at sunrise and ending the day with front row seats at a Cirque du Soleil show is one of the best memories meeting planners can offer to guests says Valerie Bihet, meeting planner and director at the VIBE Agency. “Another once-in-a-lifetime experience is a backstage tour with the Cirque du Soleil team or a cooking class with one of the celebrity chefs,” Bihet says.
Tips For Success in Las Vegas
Bihet says that Las Vegas’ biggest draw is that it is a city that offers a wide range of options for hotels — from large capacity in terms of rooms and meeting spaces for multiday conferences to smaller budget-friendly hotels that are still on or near The Las Vegas Strip but without the expense of the flagship properties. “It’s important to play off the above,” Bihet says. “The amount of rooms in the city allows it to be very competitive between properties for a group. And remember, it’s the city of entertainment. You can find top-of-the-line restaurants, shows, venues and activities. Truly, it’s the dream city for all event planners. Everything you need for a group is located on the same street — The Strip — which makes it very convenient.”
In addition, Bihet loves that Las Vegas offers a nice balance between the city — and all of its lights and attractions — and nature.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority offers a wealth of planning options and tools for meeting professionals. There also are so many venue options in Las Vegas that it can pay to work with a local venue-finding company to get the best deals and some great concessions. But budget carefully. What’s more, always check to see what else is going on in Las Vegas, and in the selected hotels, when you’re planning to hold an event there.
As Kay explains, it’s tough to organize a smaller event when there’s a gigantic “Let’s take over Las Vegas” event happening at the same time. “And remember how hot it can get in Las Vegas in the summer. The prices may be better, but you’ll pay for it in other ways,” Kay says. “It gets plenty hot in the summer when you’re loading in and out, and have loading dock doors open. Wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated. The walk from a hotel room to the conference center, in the same hotel, could easily be more than a mile.” Attendees will have a better experience in Las Vegas if they come in spring or autumn as the temperatures can fluctuate very quickly in winter or summer.
Bihet also says choosing the right hotel location and style to match a client’s identity is one of most important first elements of making a Las Vegas-based event a success. Then, you build the rest of the program from there. “You also need to find the right balance between indoor and outdoor activities,” Bihet says. “We know that fresh air does wonders for people’s attention and engagement, so outdoor activities are needed to keep people happy and positive.”
Looking for an offbeat venue? Bihet recommends taking advantage of the original and beautiful venues the city has to offer, like a private dinner at the aforementioned Neon Museum. For a unique view of the city’s skyline, enjoy a cocktail reception in the High Roller, the 550-ft. tall, 520-ft. diameter Ferris wheel on The Strip; the Skyfall Lounge, on the 64th floor of the Delano Las Vegas; or at the 1,149-ft. tall Stratosphere Tower.
And what about the non-gamers in the group? While Las Vegas is known for gambling, in reality there are many things to do outside of the traditional casino experience. In the city, visitors can enjoy activities such as scavenger hunts, a racing circuit, zip lining, or strolling and shopping on Fremont Street. There are also many spas for a day of pampering or a shopping trip to the luxury malls. And, outside of the city, planners also can organize memorable teambuilding events 45 minutes away at Sandy Valley Ranch, with cowboy-themed activities which include horseback riding, working cattle, rodeos and more.
New Venues Aplenty
Because Las Vegas is ever changing, new resort and venue options frequently emerge to offer the latest and greatest. The soon-to-open, 550,000-sf Caesars Forum conference center is the newest addition to the Caesars Entertainment family. The massive venue features 300,000 sf of flexible meeting space and the world’s two largest pillar-less ballrooms.
Las Vegas is waiting to welcome Circa Resort & Casino, the newest entertainment and hospitality hub in Downtown Las Vegas slated to open by the end of the year. When open, it will play host to the longest outdoor bar, as well as a split-level casino with more than 1,350 slot machines. One of the resort’s most celebrated features will be its outdoor pool amphitheater, complete with six rooftop pools that will also boast a massive 14-million pixel screen playing the day’s most celebrated sporting events and games.
Resorts World Las Vegas and Hilton are partnering to bring three of Hilton’s brands together for a $4.3 billion integrated resort. Scheduled to be open next summer, Resorts World Las Vegas will include a 3,500-room resort, as well as a 5,000-capacity state-of-the-art theater, 350,000 sf of meeting and convention space and a 220,000-sf pool complex with seven unique pool experiences.
In 2022, the much-anticipated The Drew Las Vegas is scheduled to grace the north end of the Las Vegas Strip and will feature 3,780 rooms, as well as retail, nightlife and more than 550,000 sf of convention and meeting space when it opens. As of press time, the project has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a factor that could easily affect any of the construction projects, although many sought to press forward despite the crisis.
As new properties arise, existing properties in Las Vegas continue to renew and redefine themselves. Tropicana Las Vegas, A DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, recently underwent an expansion that includes a new conference facility, which can be divided into as many as 38 breakout rooms, as well as a 25,000-sf ballroom and 55,000-sf pavilion for exhibits and general sessions. For smaller gatherings, the Churchill room and Ashton rooms are great options.
Treasure Island Hotel & Casino also recently underwent $1.7 million in renovations to its upper-level convention floor and meeting space. In addition, the resort’s new $6.5 million lower-level meeting and events space offers some of Las Vegas’ newest meeting facilities with its 30,500 sf of space.
And while Sahara Las Vegas has been a staple within the Las Vegas resort scene, it is undergoing a $150 million transformation including exterior upgrades, all new restaurants and a renovated lobby with a new poker room. The property also boasts 85,000 sf of flexible meeting space and a collection of entertainment venues, lounges, two rooftop pools and the luxurious Amina Spa.
Speaking of spas, Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel and Casino features the 50,000-sf Que Baths & Spa, as well as the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis, which includes seven different pool experiences, cabanas and ideal sunbathing spots. When it’s time for gathering for the scheduled meeting or event, Caesar’s Palace features 300,000 sf of meeting space. The 51,000-sf pillar-less Octavius and Forum Ballrooms can each accommodate as many as 5,555 attendees and can be reconfigured into as many as 25 separate breakout rooms.
Also part of Caesars Entertainment’s family of Las Vegas destinations, Harrah’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino boasts a 25,000-sf conference level featuring state-of-the-art technology, including advanced A/V, presentation and communication features. The flexible meeting space offers myriad options in one convenient location.
Long cherished since it made its first appearance in Las Vegas in 1976, Station Casinos has been offering some of the best meeting spaces in the area for decades. Operating 10 distinct venues dotting the Las Vegas landscape, Station Casinos features a variety of options to accommodate groups of all sizes. For example, its Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa, which overlooks the stunning Red Rock Canyon, offers more than 94,000 sf of flexible meeting rooms.
Likewise, Station Casinos’ Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa, & Casino features 65,000 sf of customizable meetings and conference space. The resort’s 40,000-sf conference center features two expansive ballrooms and up to 12 customizable breakout meeting rooms.
Another of Station Casinos’ resorts perfect for groups is the Texas Station Gambling Hall & Hotel, which offers 40,000 sf of space for meetings, banquets, weddings and other events and is capable of accommodating groups up to 1,100 attendees.
Space is obviously prolific in Las Vegas. Take Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, for example. Recently named the largest five-star resort in the world, Wynn Las Vegas offers 290,000 sf of flexible meeting space, three ornate ballrooms with the capacity of 20,500 sf to 50,000 sf and 39 meeting rooms.
Of course, hosting events poolside will earn accolades galore, and Wynn features XS Nightclub, a 40,000-sf venue that opens up to a 45,000-sf outdoor pool deck.
ARIA Resort & Casino also is a favorite among meeting planners who have chosen Las Vegas as their destination. In addition to five expansive theatrical stages, ARIA boasts a wealth of flexible meeting spaces, including seven ballrooms ranging up to 51,000 sf. The additional breakout meeting rooms range up to 3,400 sf to host smaller programs.
While meeting venues already mentioned are being built and renovated, other new aspects of life in Las Vegas still garner attention. Construction teams are working to complete the new Allegiant Stadium, home to the National Football League’s Raiders, for the upcoming NFL season. Complete with 65,000 seats, the venue will offer high-tech features, ultra-high-definition video screens and windows that allow fans to see the Las Vegas Strip from inside.
To enhance the ease and accessibility of the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Boring Company is expected to complete a futuristic “people mover” by the end of this year, underneath the convention center.
Using autonomous electric Tesla vehicles, passengers will be transported underground, reducing the otherwise 15-minute walk down to a little more than a minute. C&IT