When a few businessmen stood in the Nevada desert near a military base just after World War II, they saw what others didn’t see. Where others saw a hot desert with a small town and a base with dwindling post-War personnel, they saw a gleaming city rising out of the sand. Where others saw financial folly, they saw fortunes being made. Where others saw dusty, windswept streets, they saw grand hotels and bright lights.
Truth be told, they probably didn’t foresee Las Vegas becoming one of the world’s great meeting places. But there’s no disputing that title now. In 2017, there were 19,767 corporate meetings and conventions in Las Vegas, making that “folly” of a city one of the world’s great meeting destinations.
People like to meet in destinations where they can have fun after the meetings end for the day. And many planners say their meetings in Las Vegas are very productive because the attendees are happy to be there — and invigorated by the number of after-meeting options.
The same thing has happened to the Reno/Sparks/Lake Tahoe region to the north, once a little-known frontier outpost, but now also a great meeting destination — with both bright lights and perhaps America’s most beautiful alpine lake.
The big news here is the upcoming expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has approved a nearly $1 billion project to expand and renovate the center. That project is Phase Two of an improvement plan for the Convention Center District. When this phase is finished at the end of 2020, it will add 1.4 million square feet to the center, 600,000 of which will be for exhibition space. Phase Three will be a total renovation of the facility, to be completed by 2023. When that phase is done, Las Vegas will have the most technologically advanced convention center in America.
The ARIA Resort & Casino has just completed its own enhancements, adding 200,000 square feet to the original 300,000 of meeting space. These spaces bring the desert inside, with native trees and plants and plenty of natural light. With 4,004 guest rooms, it can
accommodate almost any group. Attendees can choose from among 16 restaurants and eight bars/lounges, and they’ll be surrounded by interesting artworks.
Caesars Palace, of course, is a longtime Las Vegas landmark, as is its casino. Its 300,000 square feet of meeting space is away from the casino, but easily accessible from anywhere in the hotel. In addition, there’s a 4,100-seat auditorium and a wonderful non-traditional space at the 4.5-acre Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis.
In July, Caesars Entertainment Corporation broke ground on CAESARS FORUM, a $375-million, 550,000-square-foot meetings facility tagged as “the convention center of the future.” It will be finished in 2020, with direct access to 8,500 hotel rooms at Caesars’ nearby resorts.
“We’ve been staging events in Las Vegas for the past 20 years, and our attendance at these meetings is always at least 10 percent higher than anywhere else we’ve been.” — Gary McClain
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is a combination of striking modern design and luxurious accommodations. There’s great diversity in both the size and the design of the various meeting spaces here, which means there’s a configuration for every need. Ones like The Chelsea, with 40,000 square feet of attention-getting “industrial chic” design, help encourage attendees’ imaginations to run free.
Stacy Weber is meeting and event manager at Moss Adams LLP, one of the largest public accounting firms in America. She brought 800 attendees to the Cosmopolitan in June for the Annual Industry Group Conference.
“We chose Las Vegas for several reasons,” she says. “For one thing, it’s easy to get there from anywhere. For another, it’s difficult to find the volume of meeting space — and, accordingly, the selection — that Las Vegas has, in any other destination. The Cosmopolitan staff was also very helpful with the planning and onsite. I had never worked with that large a group before … but they do it quite often. This was our first paperless event; we used an app for the conference, and registration was online.”
The Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas affords attendees access to the nearby Mandalay Bay casino. At the Four Seasons, there’s 38,300 square feet of technologically advanced meeting space in 15 function rooms and onsite meeting staff to help out, if needed. Here, attendees enjoy dramatic views of the desert, world-renowned performers, a five-star spa and a steakhouse that’s considered one of America’s best.
The Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa is actually in Henderson, in the Las Vegas suburbs. It looks more like it’s in Italy, though, with European architecture and pastel colors, with some guest rooms situated right over the lake. There’s 100,000 square feet of meeting space, from boardrooms to ballrooms. And this hotel is a member of Connect+, a group of Hilton hotels providing advanced meeting-planning and support services.
M Resort Spa & Casino is also in Henderson, with 390 guest rooms and 92,000 square feet in multiple configurations known for their great views through floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s additional space in some interesting non-traditional venues — among them the Hostile Grape Wine Cellar. Spa Mio has an excellent reputation, and it includes a state-of-the-art fitness center. The resort has eight eateries and five bars.
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is a favorite for big meetings because the Mandalay Bay Convention Center is one of the largest meeting facilities in America, with 2.1 million square feet. This resort is known for its shows, including Cirque du Soleil; Shark Reef Aquarium, in which you walk through a glass tunnel; a 12,000-seat Events Center and “Mandalay Bay Beach,” with real sand and cabanas. The resort’s guest rooms have recently been remodeled.
Right next to Mandalay Bay is its sister property, Delano Las Vegas, an all-suite resort. There are four floors of meeting space and 31 modern meeting rooms here, offering great flexibility in both design and functionality, and the Mandalay Bay Convention Center is available for larger groups. The stylish Skyfall Lounge offers artisan cocktails and a great view of the city, and the Delano Art Series brings striking artworks to Las Vegas.
MGM Grand is the largest hotel in the United States, with 6,852 guest rooms. The big news is the upcoming addition of 250,000 square feet of conference space later this year, connecting to its present 600,000. Two dozen eateries run the gamut of cuisines and cultures and countries, and feature some of the world’s top chefs. There are 14 nightclubs, bars and virtual reality experiences, along with renowned entertainers.
The Strip’s newest hotel/casino is Park MGM, which just opened in May, in what was once the Monte Carlo. It boasts a unique sort of urban-garden design. There are 2,700 guest rooms and 77,000 square feet of meeting space, along with an excellent spa, three pools, live shows by celebrities such as Lady Gaga, a Starbucks and a distinctive French steakhouse called Bavette’s.
Tropicana Las Vegas – a DoubleTree by Hilton has won numerous “Best of Las Vegas” honors. There’s 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including a conference center for 2,500 people. Sitting right on the Strip, this hotel has a pool with waterfalls, a notable spa, a newly renovated casino, a nonstop run of great shows and even a beach club.
The Mirage has a convention center with 170,000 square feet, and every event space is on ground level for easy access. There’s a strong sustainability ethic here, and the property has won several awards for it. The resort includes Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, which boasts bottlenose dolphins, white lions and tigers, and leopards. The hotel also has imaginative concepts like Yoga With the Dolphins.
At Vdara Hotel & Spa, attendees can meet in 16,500 square feet of space incorporating natural elements such as wood, sandstone and pebbles. Afterward, they can relax and refresh at the Espa Spa, which was awarded a five-star rating by Forbes Travel Guide, and have items delivered to their rooms by robots. The hotel has 1,495 guest rooms, 14 eateries and an onsite Starbucks.
Gary McLain is vice president of Resource Management Services, Inc., a California company that produces educational conferences and networking events for the collections industry. He brought 500 people to a networking event at the Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa, just outside of town late last year.
“We’ve been staging events in Las Vegas for the past 20 years,” says McClain, “and our attendance at these meetings is always at least 10 percent higher than anywhere else we’ve been. We chose the Red Rock this time precisely because it’s not on the Strip … we wanted to keep our people together. But, wherever you are in Las Vegas, you can never really go wrong. There’s so much to see and do. If you’re looking for healthy attendance figures … this is the place to get them. And, we’re going back for the next two years.”
The Venetian and Palazzo are two luxurious adjoining towers under the same management (the Sands Corp.), and visitors to each have use of both facilities. Meeting facilities are in the Venetian. Between the meeting rooms, ballrooms, Sands Expo Halls and other very unique spaces, the Venetian offers a whopping 2.25 million square feet and a full production team, along with more than 30 restaurants.
Both hotels feature canals and gondola rides and Medieval Italian architecture. The Palazzo has a dozen innovative restaurants, top performers, stylish nightclubs and entertainment venues, several pools, a beach club and upscale shops.
The former Mandarin Oriental is now the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas, and the hotel reflects the luxury and sophistication for which that nameplate is known. The 389 guest rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, providing memorable views, and the 17,028 square feet of modern meeting spaces have huge windows letting in natural light that enhances both energy and productivity.
Away from the Strip, with a more relaxing vibe, the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa sits, of course, on the lake. The 44,630 square feet come complete with a meetings team to handle every detail. Afterward, you might get in some golf at the Jack Nicklaus course next door, or work out in the fitness center. Later, you can “work out” any post-workout kinks at the prestigious g Aveda Spa Lago.
Just one block from the Strip, the Westin Las Vegas Hotel & Spa is nonetheless an oasis of quiet luxury amid the hustle and bustle of this fascinating city. There are 826 guest rooms, as well as 29,629 square feet of bright meeting space with interesting art, along with an onsite meeting services staff and a staffed business center, a full-service restaurant, a fitness center and a spa.
Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino has the perfect location for both business and pleasure — adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center and a block from the Strip. It also has some of the best meeting/convention facilities in the city, with 225,000 square feet of recently renovated space, and the 700,000-square-foot Paradise Event Center — as well as a dozen restaurants that will take your attendees on a culinary trip around the world.
One Las Vegas company, Wynn Resorts, has more Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star awards than any other independent hotel company on Earth. One of its award-winners is Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, the epitome of luxury in a town renowned for luxury hotels.
With 2,716 guest rooms in the Wynn and 2,034 in Encore, its sister property next-door, there’s also 260,000 square feet of interestingly designed meeting space between them. This combined resort property can also claim more four-star restaurants than any independent resort in North America.
Among the two hotels, there are more types of entertainment — from the Moody Blues to dueling pianos — than time to see them all, in a variety of themed venues, plus unique experiences, such as “La Reve – The Dream,” billed as a “thrilling acrobatic fantasy of water and fire.” And there are two world-class spas, luxury shopping and fitness facilities.
You don’t have to sell Linda Sinnott on Las Vegas. She’s the associate director of meetings and conferences for AICPA, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. She brought nearly 4,000 attendees from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to the MGM Grand in June for the organization’s annual meeting.
“This was our second consecutive year at MGM,” Sinnott says. “And the reason we returned was obvious — Las Vegas generates larger attendance. And we needed a big hotel like the MGM because we had — believe it or not — 350 different sessions in breakout rooms, 23 of which were concurrent at any given time.”
The organization’s opening session was held at the Events Center and among the speakers was David Gergen of CNN. “We worked with Helms Briscoe to negotiate with the property,” Sinnott says, “and the CVA (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority) gave us some valuable insights and information. We also use technology whenever we can. We used Cvent technological tools for registration, conference apps and a content management system, and the majority of our sessions were live online.”
In a contest to name Reno’s downtown arch in 1929, a Sacramento man entered the winner — “Biggest Little City in the World.” This is one little city with a lot of the advantages of larger cities. It’s a place, too, with one foot in the Old West and the other in the mountains surrounding it and in the magnificent alpine lake in the middle of them.
Reno, the neighboring city of Sparks, and Lake Tahoe are popular meeting destinations because they’re in the big leagues when it comes to hosting them. The destination is diverse, it boasts a colorful history, it has a wide range of meeting hotels and resorts, and it has the 600,000-square-foot Reno-Sparks Convention Center, with everything on one level.
There are also 10 impressive casino-resort hotels, each between 800 and 2,000 rooms, and each with meeting space up to 200,000 square feet.
In addition, most of these resorts are within minutes of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Reno-Tahoe has a stunning natural landscape, offering meeting attendees an impressive range of outdoor recreational opportunities. With 300 days of sunshine, they can experience the fun year-round, whether it’s paddleboarding in North Lake Tahoe (largest alpine lake in America) or rafting Reno’s Truckee River. Reno is also a blossoming cultural hub, evidenced by the eye-catching murals now appearing on downtown buildings. The largest meeting/convention space in all Reno casino resorts belongs to the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino with 200,000 square feet and 1,900 guest rooms. The list of amenities is just as impressive and includes a full-service spa, fitness center, mini-golf, go-karts, “skydiving” experience, bowling alley, movie theater and an indoor simulated golf course, along with great views of the mountains.
The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino also offers spectacular views. To get to the lake, just walk outside your door. The four-star hotel has modern, airy rooms, some with fireplaces, and its 80,000 square feet includes the only lakeside ballroom in Tahoe. There’s golf, a sporting goods shop and free shuttle to the shops and restaurants of Incline Village.
The city of Sparks boasts the Nugget Casino Resort, with an upgraded meeting space (110,000 square feet), new casino games, beautiful new lobby and a fresh “mountain-lodge” feel to the whole place. The fitness center, too, has been upgraded. There are seven award-winning restaurants and an onsite Starbucks. There’s big-name entertainment, too, with performers such as Michael Bolton, Wayne Newton and John Fogerty.
Surrounded by the mountains and lakes of Northern Nevada, Peppermill Reno Hotel Resort is an environmentally conscious hotel — and, with 1,621 guest rooms, a good one for meetings.
This hotel is a mixture of modern American design and Classic European furnishings. It boasts 15 bars/lounges and 10 restaurants. The Tuscany Ballroom has 62,000 square feet, and there are two other ballrooms and several meeting spaces.
Eldorado Resort Casino draws acts such as Culture Club and the B-52s to its Reno property. It attracts meetings, too, with amenities such as its 5th-floor outdoor pool and hot tub, fitness center, upscale shops like Swarovski Crystal, a business center, free Wi-Fi and an array of nightclubs. Nor does it hurt that Eldorado has a flexible ballroom, meeting spaces and a 25th-floor boardroom with breathtaking views.
Reno also has Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, an AAA Four Diamond resort with floor-to-ceiling windows for great views of city and mountains.
Atlantis is the only resort directly attached to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, and its own facilities include two ballrooms, 22 meeting rooms and a boardroom, all with state-of-the-art technology. With good restaurants and 10 lounges/bars, your attendees certainly won’t go hungry or thirsty.
Small wonder that Las Vegas and Reno/Sparks/Tahoe attract so many financial and insurance meetings. Planners know they’ll persuade more attendees here.
They know there’s exciting outdoor recreation available almost every day of the year. They know there are breathtaking panoramas everywhere you look. They know there are more four- and five-star and Four- and Five-Diamond resorts here than just about anywhere else in America. They know their attendees can have dinner every night in a different award-winning restaurant, followed by performances by world-famous entertainers.
They know, too, that their attendees will be genuinely excited about going to Las Vegas or Reno/Tahoe. Which means, of course, they know their meetings will be productive ones. What else could a planner ask for? I&FMM