The mighty Las Vegas meetings and events engine keeps humming along for a number of reasons: It offers a seemingly endless variety of luxurious mega resorts that are destinations unto themselves. Las Vegas continues to open new resorts while improving and expanding existing properties. Meanwhile, the city is adding several new non-resort attractions. As a result, Las Vegas offers what few other destinations in the world can — the opportunity for groups to return year after year and have totally new experiences each time.
That’s a big reason why, in 2014, Las Vegas was the No.1 trade show destination for the 21st consecutive year, according to the Trade Show News Network’s “2014 TSNN Top 250 Trade Shows in the United States” list. Another banner performance is expected this year thanks partly to 12 new and rotating conventions and trade shows that will draw a combined 242,000 attendees in 2015.
This year is also shaping up as a strong one for corporate meetings, including those that repeatedly return to Las Vegas such as a Fortune 500 consumer products business that met in July 2015 at Aria Resort & Casino. The seven-day combination meeting and incentive included 2,400 salespeople, employees and customers.
It was the first time the group met at Aria following meetings in previous years at other Las Vegas properties. “Las Vegas has a plethora of hotel options, but we narrowed it down to Aria and one other hotel,” says the company’s meeting planner. “We selected Aria because of its level of service and the Aria Convention Center.”
The planner was impressed by the uniqueness of the Aria Convention Center, a three-story, 300,000-sf facility. “It’s like no other,” she says. “It’s a beautiful, functioning space. The rooms are easy to get to. There is a patio where you can leave without exiting through the casino. I’ve seen convention centers that look like a dark basement. At Aria, you don’t feel like you are inside for the amount of hours you are.”
The group held most of its events, including several awards dinners at the convention center, mostly in the same room, transforming it to fit each occasion. “We kicked off with a Sunday night awards dinner, using several production companies to transform the room with a moving tri-level stage and special decorations and lighting,” says the planner. “Monday night we had an education dinner for 500 people. Tuesday night we had a sales dinner for the same 500 people. We also used some of the lounges, including Alibi Cocktail Lounge and Liquid Pool Lounge for receptions.”
Aria’s service, a deciding factor in choosing the resort, was top-notch even before the corporation selected the hotel. “During our site visit, the hotel salesperson and team we were assigned to stayed with us from the beginning through the end,” says the planner. “The way they toured the property with us, the touches they provided and the way they cared about our questions made us feel like it wasn’t the standard tour they give everybody.”
During the meeting, the planner was impressed by a unique service that Aria provided — a concierge dedicated to working solely with the group full-time for the entire event. “That is unbelievable, and it really stood out,” says the planner. “It surpasses anything we have ever experienced. This concierge ran the business center for me, made sure lunches were ready and offered to help by asking me questions like, ‘I heard you mention reservations. Do you want me to look something up for you?’ ”
The concierge helped with the many reservations that the group made at Aria’s restaurants. “Everyone ventured to at least one of the hotel’s restaurants at some point,” says the planner. “We used Javier’s Restaurant, the fine-dining Mexican restaurant a lot. That was a hit because it’s centrally located in the casino, has great food and service, and is perfect for people-watching. The Buffet at Aria was also popular with many people using pre-paid vouchers that we provided.”
Feedback from attendees after the meeting showed that they were wowed by Aria. That’s a big reason why the planner has been discussing possible dates with the property for 2016.
Overall value was another advantage. “Aria offered a great price point,” says the planner. “On average, most Las Vegas properties we visited came in about the same. Because Aria is so new, smack dab in the middle of The Strip and a five-star property, we knew that for the total value we wanted to pick Aria.”
While some planners prefer resorts in the middle of The Strip, others seek properties away from the action. Cindy Kravitz, meeting planner for Moen, which is headquartered in North Olmsted, Ohio, held the company’s Global Supplier Conference at the Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa & Casino located off The Strip. The three-day meeting in May 2015 included about 200 of Moen’s suppliers, employees and executives.
It was the fourth consecutive time that Moen has held the conference — which meets every other year — in Las Vegas. “We like Las Vegas because it’s a big draw for suppliers coming from Asia and other countries,” says Kravitz. “We get a higher attendance rate when meeting in Las Vegas. We also like it because the group can focus on the conference instead of the nightlife.”
Green Valley Ranch Resort’s conference center also was a plus. “We used three of the ballrooms, and the corridors were good for prefunction activities,” says Kravitz. “All of our breakout rooms were around the corner from our major general session room, so we didn’t have to worry about getting lost. The general session room and pool were close to the terrace, where we ate most of our meals.”
Like a growing number of meeting planners, Kravitz used an app to help attendees get the most out of the meeting. “They used it to give feedback during breakouts,” she says. “We put our schedule and agenda on it so we no longer had to print all of those materials. It included speaker bios and attendee contact information to encourage networking. They started that networking before the meeting because we provided the app prior to their arrival.”
The app contributed to an enjoyable experience for attendees, and that was evident in the post-meeting survey. “They liked the app, the venue, the food and service,” says Kravitz. “Most people said they liked the fact that it’s off The Strip and quieter. Several people said it was the best conference ever. There is a good possibility we will go back next year.”
Another corporation held its annual conference for sales agents at Caesars Palace for the last four years and is considering returning in 2016. “Every year I ask does everybody really want to go back to the same property,” says the company’s planner. “I ask in surveys if there is something we can do to change things up, but they always want to return because they have a fabulous time.”
The planner cites one huge advantage of returning to Caesars Palace: The property’s staff knows the group’s needs. “They still have the same people we have worked with for three or four years, from those working at the pool to those in the conference office,” says the planner. “They know us by name. I don’t have to go through lengthy explanations of our needs because they already know. It takes a lot of stress out of planning.”
Meeting at the same property every year also provides good value. “I don’t pay for meeting room space,” says the planner. “We rent the same hospitality suite every year and get it at a tremendously discounted rate. This year we got some show tickets for free. Every year we return, they are willing to do more because they want the repeat business.”
Another plus of meeting in Las Vegas is higher attendance. “We probably added a good 25 percent to attendance after we started meeting in Las Vegas,” says the planner. “People tend to bring their spouses more and turn it into a vacation. They also tend to stay on afterwards and some people come up to a week early.”
Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino is redesigning more than 3,000 guest rooms and suites as part of the final phase of its resort-wide renovation. The rooms will feature modern furnishings, and new colors and designs. Plans call for the $100 million remodeling to be completed by spring 2016. Mandalay Bay recently opened the 350,000-sf expansion of its convention center, bringing total space to 2 million sf. The second and final phase of the convention center’s expansion will transition existing space into a 70,000-sf ballroom.
This year, the final phase of the multi-year renovation of The Venetian and The Palazzo Congress Center and Sands Expo was completed. Recent improvements at Sands Expo included a new $6 million 12,000-sf kitchen designed to provide higher quality food for trade show attendees, support show growth, and increase energy efficiency by 35 percent. This is in addition to the recent total remodel and redesign of all lobbies and common spaces; construction of a 60-foot central atrium with a 30,000-sf, 3-D articulated ceiling; reconstruction of meeting rooms and business center; renovation of the building facade and porte cochere; and upgrades to the exhibition halls. Also, attendees will find upgrades to the technology and Wi-Fi infrastructure throughout the resort and convention center.
Encore and the Encore Tower Suites at Wynn Las Vegas will complete a design refresh by this fall. The project includes additional amenities such as 55-inch 4K TVs, convenient USB ports, and outlets for mobile phones and tablets.
The Mob Museum introduced a new display that explores the alleged corruption of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the world’s governing organization for soccer. The display, entitled “The ‘Beautiful Game’ Turns Ugly,” features photos, media clippings and cover stories about FIFA’s alleged corruption. The exhibition comes after U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch charged FIFA officials with taking bribes and kickbacks.
Aria Resort & Casino recently introduced Sky Pool, an upscale pool offering personalized service, including complimentary refreshments, a private guest entrance and 125 single and 15 double chaise lounge chairs.
The Delano opened its new Delano Beach Club, a South Beach-inspired outdoor venue with a luxurious pool and 16 private cabanas. The entire venue is available for evening group rentals.
The New Tropicana Las Vegas – a DoubleTree by Hilton introduced new Wi-Fi service that offers one of the fastest Internet services available in a Las Vegas property. The property also expanded its Trinidad Pavilion, increasing the resort’s total convention and meeting space to 100,000 sf.
South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa opened a new 60-lane, state-of-the-art tournament bowling and event center. As part of a partnership between the United States Bowling Congress and the LVCVA, the venue will host 122 days of professional bowling tournaments through 2017.
The Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas introduced The Gallery, a loft-style meeting venue that offers 1,900 sf of space accommodating up to 200 guests for a reception and 80 people for a seated dinner.
The new Lavo Casino Club is a modern gaming experience fusing blackjack table games with Vegas-style VIP bottle service, mixology and Italian cuisine. The new concept will launch in partnership with The Palazzo Las Vegas in September. The Lavo Casino Club will create a new type of nightlife and gaming experience where guests can enjoy a deejay and dancing, along with amenities not offered in typical nightclubs or on the casino floor, such as classic premium cocktails served directly to the gaming table from a butler’s cart; an opportunity to order from Lavo’s award-winning Italian menu; and featured sporting events, including college and NFL football games on the flat-screen TVs.
Red Rock Resort’s Race and Sports Book announced new cutting-edge video displays — just in time for football season. The 2.5MM Nanoslim Engage LED displays are the largest of their kind ever installed in North America, and take the viewing experience to an unparalleled level with a sharpness and clarity that brings all the action on the screen to life. The new displays, measuring 17 feet tall by 31.5 feet wide each, which totals nearly 32 yards of wall-to-wall race and sports book action, replace projector screen technology. The screens showcase 4K video content for viewing in ultra high definition, which is the most sophisticated and best viewing technology currently available.
Genting Group recently broke ground on Resorts World Las Vegas, a new $4 billion, Chinese-themed resort on the site of the former Stardust Hotel. The property will include three hotels with more than 3,500 rooms; more than 100,000 sf of gaming space; several retail outlets; and an outdoor amphitheater. Genting Group, which operates casino resorts worldwide, plans to open Resorts World in 2018.
Caesars Entertainment has completed its Linq Complex with the opening of The Linq Hotel & Casino after renovating all 2,253 guest rooms and adding two loft-style penthouses and 25 poolside guest rooms. The Linq Hotel also added an automated valet retrieval system, an automated check-in process and a new lobby bar. The Linq complex also includes the Linq Promenade and High Roller observation wheel.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority plans to build the Las Vegas Global Business District. Once completed, the district will host the largest exhibition and meeting space in North America and is within a short distance of more than 150,000 guest rooms and just minutes from the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. The project will add 100,000 sf of general session space and 100,000 sf of meeting space to the Las Vegas Convention Center.
MGM Resorts International plans to build a 5,000-seat theater at Monte Carlo Resort and Casino. The new theater will anchor the burgeoning entertainment district on the west Las Vegas Strip and feature special appearances by top music performers. The theater will be adjacent to the new Las Vegas Arena that MGM and AEG are developing on Las Vegas Boulevard. The Arena is expected to open in April 2016, while the theater opening is planned for the end of 2016.
Speedvegas was recently given approval to transform 100 acres of South Las Vegas Boulevard into the destination’s newest, adrenaline-inducing supercar experience. The Speedvegas experience will feature a welcome center, event center and supercar course. Located just 10 minutes from the world-famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, Speedvegas is scheduled to open in January 2016.
Las Vegas keeps them coming back to sample new dining options such as the following:
Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino recently opened Edge Steakhouse, a fine-dining restaurant with a new twist on the traditional steak house concept. Award-winning chef Nick Lees and his staff blend traditional American steak house dishes with creative entrees, specialty appetizers and innovative side dishes.
Aria will debut its own version of New York City’s critically acclaimed Carbone restaurant, a finalist for the 2014 James Beard Award for “Best New Restaurant.” The Italian-American restaurant serves classic dishes from the mid-20th century such as Fra Diavolo and Chicken Scarpariello.
Red Rock Resort will introduce Salute, an authentic Italian-inspired restaurant that will feature traditional Italian dishes. Internationally known chef Luciano Sautto, a native of Naples, Italy, will offer cuisine passed down through Italian generations and focus on freshness.
Delano Las Vegas will introduce Rivea, a restaurant featuring casually elegant but simple Mediterranean cuisine from the French Riviera and Italian Riviera. A 50-seat dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows will offer views of The Strip.
Therapy Las Vegas recently opened in the Fremont East Entertainment District of downtown Las Vegas. Therapy combines the best elements of downtown dining and imbibing into one destination complete with an American gastro-style menu by executive chef Daniel Ontiveros and a full bar program with more than 40 craft beers and signature drinks.
Anchor Bar, the iconic Buffalo, New York, institution opened its first West Coast outpost in the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. Inventors of The Original Buffalo Wing, Anchor Bar boasts creating the prized recipe that started a nationwide sensation. Anchor Bar Las Vegas will serve the classic wings in mild, medium, hot, spicy hot barbecue along with the signature celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.
Although Las Vegas is the gaming capital of the United States, it is as close to a sure thing as planners can get when it comes to meetings and incentives. Planners are perpetually pleased with increased attendance and post-meeting surveys of groups meeting in Las Vegas. That is very unlikely to change, and that is why groups keep coming back year after year. C&IT