While The Strip is the epicenter of quintessential Las Vegas, the city has moved beyond its famous boulevard, revitalizing off-Strip neighborhoods and adding resorts, event centers and experiences to meet the needs of planners and attendees with a wide range of preferences. Of course, those who love the energetic vibe of The Strip can meet there. But planners desiring a setting a bit removed and more serene have options, too. The city’s stand-alone event centers add still more to the eclectic mix.
Want to go farther afield? Reno and Lake Tahoe provide phenomenal meeting settings in an area enhanced by some of Mother Nature’s most spectacular work.
When it comes to on-Strip action, few companies offer the range of possibilities that MGM Resorts does. Within its fold are Aria, Bellagio, Delano, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Luxor, Excalibur, Circus Circus, New York New York, Monte Carlo, Vdara, and, of course, MGM Grand. That breadth and depth of properties has given Brad Hecht the ability to bring in large programs to several of MGM’s urban resorts. Hecht is vice president, travel, with Motivation Excellence Inc., a Schaumburg, Illinois-based company that creates programs to engage, motivate and incent individuals to higher performance. In 2016 he booked groups at Bellagio, and he has programs for a large building-products client scheduled at Aria in 2017, Mirage in 2018 and Bellagio in 2019 and 2021. Each group is about 1,500 attendees.
“Las Vegas in general is flexible and wants your business. The educated sales teams at the hotels and the other destination management partners will accommodate almost any reasonable request and are truly an extension of your team.”
— Brad Hecht
“The hotels chosen filled the ‘wants’ of each of these groups, meaning they offer the location and the ability to make their space work for each group’s needs,” Hecht says. “Aside from the flexibility these hotels offer, the sale process has been exceptional. Our sales contact performs as a partner and asks the right questions in order for us to exceed our client’s expectations. The exceptional working relationship we have with the sales teams at Mirage, Aria and Bellagio, and their extreme flexibility to get it done, have made all these groups possible.”
Once Hecht’s team selected and secured the function and event space “that best conforms to the groups’ needs and allows our team to best execute the programs,” he set up a variety of functions at the hotels, from meals and product demonstrations and exhibitions to big-name entertainment
Hecht says the city itself makes meeting there easy thanks to “excellent hotel options, value in terms of room product, great amenities, built-in entertainment with little to no cost, and, of course, exceptional airlift. The choices,” he adds, “are virtually endless, and the offerings can be tailored to meet almost anyone’s needs and wants.”
While he has not relied much on the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, he says, “It is always there to provide any support and assistance we need along the way. They have a strong team that wants to help us in any way they can.”
For Hecht and his groups, the MGM teams have pretty much done it all. “The MGM property sales teams have been there and worked creatively to get deals done,” he says, “whether pricing or multiyear deals.”
Many restaurants along The Strip have served as offsite venues for Hecht’s groups, including Jean Georges Steakhouse, Carbone, Prime Steakhouse, Fix Restaurant & Bar, Mastro’s Ocean Club, SW Steakhouse and Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak. There’s always a buyout of a Cirque show as well.
The biggest challenge of booking Las Vegas, Hecht says, is that “at times it is difficult to obtain our preferred Thursday to Sunday date pattern. We have to be flexible to work far enough out and look for holes and partner with these great hotels to make it a win-win for both parties.”
To those considering a meeting here he adds, “Las Vegas in general is flexible and wants your business. The educated sales teams at the hotels and the other destination management partners will accommodate almost any reasonable request and are truly an extension of your team.”
Set about 11 miles from the center of The Strip, M Resort Spa Casino gives planners access to all that Las Vegas offers but away from the inherent distractions of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Natus Medical Incorporated, a leading provider of medical devices, software and services for newborn care, neurology, sleep, hearing and balance, holds its annual sales meeting for 225 to 250 attendees every January at M Resort Spa Casino. Teresa Boone, director of global education, notes that there are many reasons they choose M Resort over and over, and its off-Strip location is one of them. “M Resort is not on The Strip and this is a big advantage for us,” she says. “While we are there to work, we still manage to have Las Vegas-style fun, and we do not lose attendees to The Strip. Our group is well rested and focused on the meeting, and we have a safe environment to let loose during the evening.”
The group is already booked at M Resort for 2017 and under contract for 2018. “We went with M Resort because of the outstanding meeting space. They have the capacity for large general sessions, multiple breakout sessions and social functions,” Boone says. “After our first year, we discovered that the customer service from every department was exceptional and the staff ensured our meetings were executed flawlessly. We are constantly amazed to see the same faces year after year, and that is a very positive statement in that employees love working there — and it shows. Besides facilitating our meetings, M Resort is a lovely property with beautiful, comfortable sleeping rooms and excellent choices for food and beverage. It also provides casino action for those wanting to have a little fun in the evening and not be swept away by the Las Vegas Strip.”
For Boone and her group it’s the people that make the big difference. “People make an organization,” she says, “and M Resort excels! Brisa Villarreal, national sales manager, is amazing to work with. She’s kind and honest and always ready to do the right thing. Nancy Galt, director of catering and conference services, is a consummate professional, and we are 100 percent comfortable she is watching out for us in the preplanning, execution and post-meeting follow-up. She is detail-focused, yet continues to employ extra touches to make us feel we are her only priority. Aaron Hill, director of M Productions, is always flexible and accessible in meeting our AV needs and went out of his way to design our Tailgate Party to huge accolades. He is creative and has a great sense of humor and helps bring fun to our meeting. There are so many people from the banquet staff to the spa to the ladies in Baby Cakes, the coffee shop, who are genuinely nice people and truly a delight.
“Talking about the spa,” she adds, “Spa Mio is one of the best in the world, and I’ve been to many!”
Typically the group uses the entire meeting space. Boone says the hotel is the perfect size and notes that, “while the meeting space is on its own level, all of the perimeter function space is easily accessible.” The hotel sets up multiple break stations so the attendees always have quick access to snacks and beverages, and, Boone says “there are lots of options to mix up venues for breakfast and lunch.”
Ditto options for evening functions at M Resort’s event venues. “The variety is great,” Boone notes. “Lux offers wonderful views of The Strip from the top floor and cozy outdoor space including a fireplace — we are there in January so this is perfect.” She calls Vue another great party venue with additional outdoor space. “My attendees are inside in meetings all day, so the opportunity to be outside is appreciated.”
The group books M Ballroom for its awards dinners, which Boone says have received rave reviews. “It’s not easy serving 250 people at the same time, and the quality has been the best of any large function I’ve experienced,” she says. “I can’t say it enough: The food at the M is excellent! Finally, there is the Hostile Grape Wine Cellar. Wow! This is a great intimate gathering spot, and our executive team loves the opportunity to taste a variety of wines and specialty liquors. This is a perfect space for up to 100 people and provides a special touch.”
Like others, Boone points to the easy airlift into Las Vegas as a draw, especially for groups with attendees arriving from all over the world, as hers do. Not everyone stays the same number of days. “Our corporate offices are in San Francisco so Las Vegas is fairly close for those who come in just for the day. Many folks also come in a day early or stay a day or two afterwards to take advantage of the great restaurants, shopping and/or entertainment,” she says. “Las Vegas has it all.”
In addition to using M Resort venues, Natus has hosted functions at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts and Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, regional dinners at restaurants on The Strip, and teambuilding activities on and off The Strip. There have been no big challenges, Boone says, because “Las Vegas is set up for entertainment so the infrastructure is good.” To avoid traffic issues, she adds, they simply plan around peak traffic hours.
“M Resort is the epitome of perfect venues for a meeting of up to 300 people,” Boone says. “It offers variety in food and beverage options, entertainment, comfortable sleeping rooms, excellent customer service and professionalism. It is the benchmark in event facilitation.
Also off-Strip, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas is sleek, contemporary, amenity-rich and well situated along Paradise Road. “The Hard Rock is about five minutes from the airport and about a mile from the Las Vegas Strip, the best of both worlds,” says HelmsBriscoe regional vice president Michael D. Uhl.
This year the hotel is adding nearly 18,000 sf of meeting and function space, bringing its total to 110,000 sf with high-tech touches such as CAT5 cabling and a program to create customizable sound, light, mood and banquet packages. Among the Hard Rock’s singular venues is The Joint, which Uhl calls “the differentiator.”
“One of our customers had experienced incredible growth and wanted to have a celebration where they could basically take over the entire hotel, deliver their message in The Joint, a state-of-the art, iconic venue, and have phenomenal opening and closing receptions for over 2,000 people incorporating a multitude of themes at the three Hard Rock pools.”
That’s something Uhl recommends. “If you can take advantage of the great weather in Las Vegas,” he says, “a reception at the Hard Rock pools is one that your attendees will always remember.”
In addition to the physical property, Uhl has high praise for the staff. “Sales at the Hard Rock is awesome. They get ‘in the trenches’ with you and are there before, during and after your meeting. The Hard Rock,” Uhl concludes, “is a pleasure to work with and meet at!”
Both active and solitude-seeking attendees will appreciate The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa’s serene lakeside location, about 20 minutes east of the Las Vegas Strip in Henderson, Nevada. For outdoor enthusiasts, there’s standup paddleboarding (and SUP yoga), kayaking, boating, hiking and even a gondola adventure. The scenic Lake Mead National Recreation Area offering even more great outdoors activities is about 17 miles away. Area golf courses accessible to hotel guests include the Reflection Bay Golf Course, one-half mile away. The resort’s Moroccan-inspired Spa Moulay offers a full menu of spa treatments, and guests will find multiple dining and shopping options in the nearby village of Montelago. The property offers 493 guest rooms, more than 45,000 sf of function space and 50,000 sf of outdoor event space including gardens, terrace and much more.
Las Vegas has no end of options for planners looking to create that coveted wow experience. Among them is the Sundance Helicopter terminal — complete with one of the city’s decidedly wow activities.
Leora Azoulay, president/owner of Incentives by Design Inc., has been working with Sundance Helicopters for more than 15 years. She was thrilled to book the terminal in May for a U.K. realty company client with 115 attendees. The group was based at The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino. “Who doesn’t love those suites?” Azoulay asks, “especially the Europeans who are used to tiny hotel rooms.”
The plan was to offer guests Sundance’s City Lights Tour over Las Vegas. When the terminal was redesigned, it became an added enhancement. “Here was our opportunity to combine flights and fantasy in one place,” Azoulay says. “The Sundance terminal lends itself to special events with its architectural beauty and flow. Highboy cocktail rounds draped in floor-length black linens were scattered throughout the terminal and copper sculpted Kokopelli statues graced each table. As this was a post-dinner event, we offered an elegant dessert buffet with bite-sized petit fours, mini fruit tartlets, cheesecakes bites, cake pops and chocolate-covered strawberries.
“The entertainment was roving. Costumed Cirque-style jugglers and mimes walked among the guests, and two acrobats rolled across the floor lining their bodies inside a hoop. A Native American flute player was positioned on the balcony and gentle calming notes filled the air with a mystical feel. As the guests enjoyed their surroundings, we rotated them through the flights so at all times they had something going on.”
Azoulay calls the Sundance staff “the most courteous and attentive team I have had the pleasure of working with in a very long time,” noting that they even made the preflight weigh-in stress-free for guests. While she recommends the terminal as an event space, she adds, “I would strongly suggest including the City Lights flights as well.”
Another stand-alone option is Meet Las Vegas on South 4th Street, a high-tech venue with three floors of event and meeting space where groups can take over one floor or all. Because each floor is truly a blank space, the possibilities for creating a one-of-a-kind event are limitless. The first floor offers a total of 5,427 sf, the second 5,131 sf and the third 2,775 sf. In addition, an outdoor pavilion provides an additional 8,412 sf. Sales, event and catering teams can assist with every phase of planning and designing.
Blue Man Group has permanent theaters and productions in five U.S. cities, including Las Vegas, where the specially designed theater at Luxor puts the audience close to the action. The mix of music, comedy and technology never fails to inspire, and because the shows are continually refreshed, planners can bring attendees back again and again. Among the options for groups are discounted tickets, meet-and-greet experiences, backstage tours and customized art with a company’s logo. Groups can also rent the 830-seat theater for a meeting, followed by a Blue Man Group performance ranging from just a few minutes to a full 90 minutes. Groups of 500-830 can buy out a show. Additionally there are show-and-dinner packages, transportation options for 50+ and the lobby can accommodate pre-show receptions for up to 75.
Nevada is not a state to rest on its considerable laurels.
At Caesars Palace the newly renovated Julius Tower welcomed its first guests in time for the hotel’s 50th, yes, 50th, anniversary. Another Caesars property, the Rio, celebrated the opening of Guy Fieri’s El Burro Burracho this year, and in June, Caesars started offering personal yoga sessions inside a cabin on High Roller, the world’s largest observation wheel.
Caesars Palace is home to the newly transformed Omnia nightclub. The multilevel venue has an expansive main room dance floor and options for private group events in a variety of venues from the main club to the outdoor terrace or the private ultra-lounge.
The most recent addition to Caesars Palace is the upscale Montecristo Cigar Bar. Newly designed, the contemporary 4,000-sf space offers notable cigars and rare fine whiskeys. Spacious courtyard space wraps around the back portion of the cigar bar, and the 10-seat Vault allows small groups to create an exclusive experience.
Aria Resort & Casino announced a major expansion of its award-winning LEED Gold-certified convention center. The $154 million project will deliver an additional 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 spectacular new T-Mobile Arena. With the completion of the expansion, Aria will feature more than 500,000 sf of meeting space for its luxury clientele.
In February, Wynn Las Vegas announced a major expansion with development of Wynn Plaza, more than 75,000 sf of luxury retail space. It’s inspired by elegant Avenue Matignon in the Right Bank of Paris and scheduled to debut fall 2017. Still awaiting board approval is Wynn’s plan for the Paradise Park expansion, slated to stand on approximately 130 acres currently occupied by Wynn Golf Club. If it goes through, Paradise Park will add 260,000 sf of meeting space.
Always wanted to know what it’s like to be a gondolier? The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino opened Gondola University July 1; it’s available to groups as well as to the public and includes Venetian history as well as a hands-on experience. The Palazzo Theatre was newly redesigned in conjunction with the opening of Baz – Star Crossed Love, a new-generation cabaret where guests are treated to a high-energy mash-up of music, movies and the world’s greatest love stories.
MGM Resorts International and New York-based Sydell Group announced a partnership to reimagine and rebrand Las Vegas’ Monte Carlo Resort and Casino. The approximately $450 million transformation, which will touch every element of the property, will include two distinct hotel experiences: a Las Vegas version of Sydell’s widely acclaimed NoMad Hotel, and the launch of a new luxury hotel named Park MGM. In addition to fully redesigned and renovated hotel guest rooms, each hotel will feature innovative and exciting food and beverage experiences unique to the Las Vegas market, including the award-winning NoMad restaurant by chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara and Eataly’s vibrant Italian marketplace with cafés, to-go counters and full-service restaurants interspersed with high-quality products from sustainable Italian and local producers.
Park MGM and The NoMad Las Vegas become the final pieces of MGM Resorts’ complete neighborhood redesign of the central Las Vegas Strip neighborhood.
In Reno, Peppermill Reno celebrates 45 years in 2016. While it appreciates the past, the resort is looking squarely ahead to the future with innovations and renovations that include the redesign of Edge Nightclub, including the addition of $150,000 in lighting, 440 sf of LED panels, custom wallpaper, original artwork and handcrafted crystal chandeliers. Also on tap for this year: a remodel of Oceano restaurant, remodel of Capri Ballroom, installing energy-recovery ventilators and improving air quality throughout the resort.
Elsewhere in Reno, the owners of the Siena Hotel announced that the property will be rebranded and newly opened as a non-gaming Renaissance Hotel in early 2017. Siena’s casino, which closed summer 2015, has been replaced with a recreation area featuring indoor and outdoor bocce ball courts.
By almost any measure, Las Vegas offers everything a planner needs to create phenomenal experiences for groups.
As Azoulay puts it, “Las Vegas continues to capture the world’s imagination as the destination where anything is possible. It truly is one of the most exciting meeting and incentive destinations the world over.”
Her one caveat for planners: “Don’t try to go it on your own. Use a reputable destination management company to help you. Their contacts and connections are invaluable to the end result of your event.” C&IT