Las Vegas’ relentless reinvention allows planners to create distinctively unique meeting and convention experiences for attendees no matter how often they visit. “Luckily for planners and DMCs alike, there’s no shortage of brand new restaurants, shows, activities and venues, so providing a completely new itinerary for annual clients is never a challenge,” says Patty Kindness, national sales manager, AlliedPRA Las Vegas. “Even if planners request the same or similar activities for their participants year after year, we have the versatility to put a new twist on existing offerings.
“For example,” Kindness adds, “if the planner requests a tour of the Hoover Dam again, we might propose the tour along with lunch and a craft beer tasting at the Boulder Brewery. Another option would be to add on the canyon rafting tour for a different way of experiencing the dam from the water.”
Planners who continuously return to Las Vegas develop valuable relationships with properties which, in turn, encourage even more repeat visits.
Chicago-based IRI Worldwide has held its annual customer conference only at Wynn Las Vegas during each of its visits to the destination over the last 14 years. The three-day conference for 1,500 executives will return to Wynn next year.
IRI Worldwide originally selected Wynn because it identified with the resort’s reputation for excellence. “The hotels that we select for this meeting are a reflection of our brand,” says John McIndoe, executive vice president, chief marketing officer and planner of the conference. “The quality of the Wynn, attention to detail and customer service reflect our brand and company culture. The Wynn offers so much that other hotels don’t.”
IRI Worldwide also returns to Wynn because it feels a connection with the resort’s staff. “At the end of the day, we fall back on the relationship we have with our partners at the Wynn,” says McIndoe. “We developed quite a collaboration with them. The overall end-to-end experience they provide planners, executives, VIPs and clients is second to none.”
Value also was a big consideration. “We have evaluated and negotiated with other properties,” says McIndoe. “We negotiate very aggressively, and we feel there is solid value at the Wynn.”
Wynn’s meeting space is a perfect match for IRI Worldwide’s needs. “We have very intensive ballroom space requirements,” says McIndoe. “We need 1,200-plus sleeping rooms on our peak nights, and we have fairly intensive needs for our Solutions Showcase as well as a number of breakouts. We need several meeting rooms, and we have a significant footprint for our general session as well as theater-style seating for 1,500 people.”
McIndoe made good use of Wynn’s 200,000 sf of convention space, which includes two column-free ballrooms and 18 meeting rooms.
A general session was held in the 50,000-sf Lafite Ballroom and included an elaborate on-stage setup and keynoters. “The ballroom was repurposed in the evening for a big networking gala with games and big-name acts,” says McIndoe. “They turned the ballroom around quickly. We ended the general session around noon and had a total transformation experience by five.”
Thirty breakout sessions were held in portions of the 25,000-sf Latour ballroom and in various other meeting spaces. IRI bought out Encore Beach Club for a reception and held a party at Intrigue Nightclub (formerly Tryst). “Intrigue has a nice blend of indoor and outdoor space. It gives people the experience of being in a very exclusive nightclub without the hassle of waiting in line or paying fees,” says McIndoe.
In addition, a member of IRI’s executive team decided to have an after-hours evening reception for about 50 executives and gave the Wynn a two-hour notice. The resort quickly put together a celebration on the Sunset Terrace that included food, beverages, entertainment and hand-rolled cigars.
Wynn Las Vegas plans to keep groups returning with several improvements, including the new $1.5 billion Wynn Paradise Park, which will begin phase-one construction by January 2018 and is scheduled for a 2019 completion. The park will include a 1,000–2,000-room hotel tower and 260,000 sf of beachfront meeting and ballroom space overlooking a 20-acre lagoon with water sports activities, a 4,000-foot boardwalk and a white sand beach.
Additionally, Wynn will offer more upscale shopping outlets with the construction of Wynn Plaza, a 75,000-sf Strip-front expansion scheduled for completion during the first quarter of 2018. Currently, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Las Vegas offer shopping options that include the 99,000-sf Wynn Esplanade and the 7,000-sf Wynn Collection boutique. In addition, The Wynn’s Parasol Up, which reopened last year following a new design, refreshed the bar menu and updated technology.
The 2,716-room Wynn Las Vegas’ sister property, the 2,034-room Encore, offers 60,000 sf of customizable meeting space including 17 meeting rooms, a 20,650-sf ballroom and three private boardrooms.
Wynn’s improvements will add to its already legendary service. The property is known for catering to the desires of planners and attendees on short notice.
McIndoe cites an example: “We had a senior executive with a major manufacturer who suddenly decided to host an impromptu day of meetings,” says McIndoe. “The Wynn helped us quickly find the meeting space, helped us with food and beverage, and obtained additional entertainment. Within 36 hours, they had planned a phenomenal meeting for about 25 executives.”
Cindy Black, president of Minneapolis-based Five Star Productions, an event planning company, has planned five corporate meetings either at the Wynn or Encore since 2006. The number of attendees at the meetings ranged from 800 to 3,000.
Black says that The Wynn’s service sets it apart from competitors. “It’s clear that Mr. (Steve) Wynn invests in the development of his people to create superior customer service throughout the hotel, and this focus is reflected in the glowing feedback we’ve received from past attendee surveys,” says Black.
“From arrival to departure (bell service, front desk personnel, housekeeping, banquets and conference services, concierge service) they are truly the best in the industry at delivering unique luxury meeting services,” says Black. “For these reasons the Wynn jumps to the top of my list every time I consider a property for a large event.”
The 390-room M Resort Spa & Casino offers 92,000 sf of flexible meeting space including a conference center with scenic views of Las Vegas and the 25,000-sf pillarless M Pavilion with a capacity of 1,300 for general sessions and 1,800 for receptions. M Pavilion is ideal for customizable catered events, expositions and other large meetings. Other meeting spaces include the Lux special event venue, a 17,400-sf ballroom, several reception areas and a business center, each with latest internet connectivity technology.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas recently completed an expansion of its meeting and convention space with the reopening of the 28,000-sf Artist Ballroom. The newly expanded Artist Ballroom can be divided into eight separate and flexible configurations. Ceiling heights in the new space reach up to 22 feet for optimal exhibition use. The property has added nearly 18,000 sf of meeting and convention space, new exterior signage along Paradise Road and the relocation of the fully functional Business Center. Hard Rock Hotel now boasts a total of nearly 110,000 sf of contiguous meeting and convention space.
The Hard Rock Hotel’s capital expenditure campaign, which began in 2015 and was completed last spring, featured the expansion of the Convention Center, a complete makeover of the 11-story, 640-room Casino Tower; a complete redesign of the famed Center Bar; the additions of Hudson Group retail concepts, Dunkin’ Donuts, Goose Island Pub, a fresh Seafood and Raw Oyster Bar, and the acclaimed MB Steak, a wholly owned dining experience created by recognized restaurateurs, Mr. Michael and David Morton.
Other Hard Rock venues include the upscale 14,000-sf Vanity Nightclub, which can be reserved for private events and can accommodate 5 to 5,000 depending on the seating requirements. In addition, Hard Rock has partnered with Hudson Group, the largest travel retailer in North America, to introduce six new retail shops totaling 14,500 sf.
Aria Resort & Casino also is expanding. The resort is adding 200,000 sf of meeting space and updated technology to its convention center. Upon completion of the project scheduled for February 2018, Aria will have more than 500,000 sf of meeting and convention space that can accommodate 10 to 5,000 attendees. The $154 million project also includes outdoor and indoor spaces, and a venue offering scenic views of the new T-Mobile Arena and The Park.
The AAA Five Diamond Aria, an MGM Resorts International resort, is just the right property for McAfee Inc., which held its three-day customer user conference at the property for the first time in 2015, and plans to return later this year.
Elizabeth McNair, event program manager for McAfee, says company executives decided to return because attendees enjoyed the resort’s experience, among other reasons.
“We have all of the space we needed and did not compete with other clients,” says McNair. “Space was also very conveniently located. We did not have a long walk to get anywhere. And we were able to set up security, where if you did not have a badge, you could not get into our area. That was a huge benefit for us as a technology company.”
Value and convenience also played roles. “Overall value for room rates and food and beverage were good,” says McNair. “It’s more cost effective than other major destinations that would be of interest to us. Everyone wants to go to Las Vegas, and flights are not that expensive.”
McNair made full use of the Aria’s meeting space. The group held a reception in the exhibit hall; a general session and breakout sessions in the conference center; an executive VIP dinner at CraftSteak restaurant, a AAA Four Diamond steakhouse at the MGM Grand; a concert in one of Aria’s four ballrooms featuring the Goo Goo Dolls; and several hospitality dinners at restaurants on The Strip.
Aria is one of several MGM International properties on The Strip that include Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Bellagio, Delano Las Vegas, The Mirage Hotel & Casino, Circus Circus Las Vegas, Excalibur Hotel & Casino, Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, New York-New York Hotel & Casino, Vdara Hotel & Spa and Luxor Hotel & Casino.
MGM Grand is constructing a 250,000-sf, $130 million expansion of its Conference Center that is scheduled for completion in fall 2018. The new facility will connect to the existing conference center on all three levels and will include two large ballrooms encompassing 49,000 sf and 32,000 sf, three smaller ballrooms and an outdoor event space.
Upon completion, the expansion will give MGM Grand a total of 850,000 sf of meeting and convention space. The expansion includes an additional 22,000 sf covering the conference center’s entire second floor for Stay Well Meetings, the industry’s first wellness meeting experience, first introduced at the MGM Grand in 2014.
As part of Monte Carlo Resort and Casino’s transformation into the highly anticipated Park MGM, MGM Resorts International and Sydell Group will debut 77,000 sf of conference and event spaces this fall designed to host up to 5,000 attendees. The modern conference space will feature expansive ballrooms, flexible meeting places and an outdoor terrace. The space will be highlighted by the city’s first Executive Meeting Center (EMC) and Ideation Labs — two meeting areas designed to maximize productivity for small groups. Additionally, Park MGM will include an installation of the Stay Well program, the industry’s first and most comprehensive wellness meetings experience. Meeting planners also will be able to take advantage of Park MGM’s other amenities — including the 30,000-sf Park Theater, restaurants by celebrated chefs, a luxurious pool environment and more. The main conference space will be completed in October, with the introduction of the Executive Meeting Center and Ideation Labs in the first quarter of 2018.
Mandalay Bay is attracting larger groups due to its $70 million expansion last year of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The facility added 350,000 sf of meeting, ballroom and exhibit space, bringing the total to 2.1 million sf. Following the improvements, Microsoft signed a multiyear contract to hold its annual event of 30,000 attendees at Mandalay Bay and other MGM properties.
Mandalay Bay offers three different hotel experiences, including the all-suite luxury Delano Las Vegas with 20,000 sf of indoor meeting space spread over 31 meeting rooms. Dining options include the South Beach-inspired Delano Beach Club, which groups can reserve for receptions. The Delano’s Sage Living Room with overstuffed couches allows guest networking in comfort.
Luxor Hotel houses the 830-seat Blue Man Theater and one of the nation’s five permanent productions of the Blue Man Group, which offers an innovative mix of comedy, music and technology that is continuously refreshed to attract repeat visitors. Cirque du Soleil recently purchased Blue Man Group owner Blue Man Productions, and announced that it will be part of a new strategy to diversify beyond circus-style presentations.
Groups can rent the Luxor’s Blue Man Theater for a private meeting followed by a Blue Man Group performance ranging from a few minutes to 90 minutes. Other options include a full-show buyout for groups of 500–820 attendees, pre-show receptions for up to 75 people, show-and-dinner packages, and meet-and-greet experiences.
Caesars Entertainment Corporation is among the leaders in improving its Las Vegas properties.
The Strip’s most storied property, the Flamingo Las Vegas, has completed a $6.5 million meeting space renovation, which began in April 2017. A $90 million renovation of 1,270 guest rooms began last month, with completion scheduled for the second quarter of 2018. Caesars describes the new look as “unique, contemporary and retro-chic designs with accents that celebrate Flamingo’s rich history.” The 70-year-old hotel offers more than 3,500 guest rooms and a 73,000-sf Corporate Convention Center and Executive Conference Center.
The Flamingo project comes after Caesars Entertainment’s upgrades in 2016 of more than 4,800 guest rooms and suites at four of its Las Vegas properties — Hollywood Resort & Casino, Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas and Harrah’s Las Vegas. By 2018, over half of the rooms at Caesars Las Vegas properties will have been upgraded since 2014.
In addition, Caesars Palace plans to develop 90 acres of land that Caesars Entertainment owns in front of the property. Ongoing renovations at Caesars Palace include suites in the Julius Tower and Augustus Tower, and 11 mini-villas.
World-famous Caesars Palace offers 300,000 sf of luxurious meeting space, including the Octavius Ballroom, Forum Ballroom, Augustus Ballroom and Palace Ballroom. Other venues include the 4,100-sf Colosseum at Caesars Palace, a theater with one of the world’s largest LED screens, and the 4.5-acre Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis.
Continual improvements at Las Vegas properties add to the destination’s considerable advantages over its competitors.
“Planners have the ability to leverage large hotel chains for rooms, meeting space, and food and beverage,” says Kindness. “They can maximize budgets, take advantage of multitiered price points, and benefit from the consistency of service delivery. They have quality of services and experience from tenured professionals in the hospitality industry. They have the ability to provide offsite events for up to 20,000 guests at several arenas and outdoor festival venues.”
Combine ever-improving Las Vegas properties with the destination’s ever-expanding offsite options and you have a practically irresistible meeting destination. As one planner once said tongue-in-cheek, “If a group doesn’t have a good time and successful meeting in Las Vegas, it’s their own fault.” C&IT