Everybody knows about the glamour offered by Las Vegas. While it’s obviously a hotspot for visitors, it’s hard to top the world-famous Nevada location as a meeting destination.
With more than 150,000 hotel rooms and a plethora of resorts, casinos and nightspots, Las Vegas hosts more than 22,000 conventions a year that are attended by more than 5 million delegates. With so many options available, it can be a meeting planner’s dream destination.
In fact, the city surpassed 2014 visitation records, according to a just-released report commissioned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). Visitors topped 42.3 million in 2015, a 2.9 percent increase from 2014. The primary driver, the report revealed, was convention attendance, which increased more than 13 percent.
“There are so many things to do after hours. From the meeting planner’s viewpoint, you don’t need to spend time organizing entertainment. That makes the job a little easier.”
— Deannie Wirtjes
Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the LVCVA, stated, “We are encouraged by the continued strength and growth of the tourism industry particularly in the meetings and convention sector. As a destination, we look forward to building on this momentum in the coming years. We need to ensure that we continue to provide the world-class experience and facilities our visitors have come to expect.”
Offering a mind-blowing total of 11 million sf of meeting space, Las Vegas has been ranked as the No. 1 trade show destination in North America over the past two decades. And it offers much more than just meeting space.
Las Vegas is a great option for meeting planners because they don’t have to schedule every minute of every day, says Chris Meyer, vice president of global business sales for the LVCVA. “Meetings in Las Vegas in particular are better attended because attendees know that restaurants, shows and the casinos are still going to be there when they finish their business,” he says. “So they are able to get their business done without fear of missing out on all the excitement the city has to offer.”
While of course Las Vegas has earned an unsurpassed reputation as a premier gaming destination, that’s not all that it offers, Meyer adds.
“What meeting planners might be surprised to find is that gaming resorts now offer a wide array of world-class dining, shopping, entertainment and outdoor experiences that expand beyond the casino floor‚” he says. “Las Vegas makes a planner’s job easier because there is such a diverse collection of amenities that are available to every demographic.”
Meyer notes that the town was built to host visitors and has decades of experience when it comes to customer service.
“Las Vegas resorts continually evolve to meet the needs of the visitors — both leisure and business,” he says. “It is a destination that is about the overall experience and not one specific amenity.” Meyer encourages planners to reach out to the LVCVA when beginning the process of planning a meeting.
“We are the destination experts, and no meeting size is too big or too small,” he says.
That sentiment is echoed by Deannie Wirtjes, who serves as controller, commission/payroll manager and conference coordinator at Financial West Group (FWG), a securities and investment firm in Westlake Village, California. In planning meetings for brokers from around the country, she has found Las Vegas to be an ideal location.
“There are so many things to do after hours,” she says. “From the meeting planner’s viewpoint, you don’t need to spend time organizing entertainment. That makes the job a little easier.”
Wirtjes says the city’s excitement level is balanced by the serious approach taken to accommodate business guests.
“The city is a great place itself, and the hotels work well with businesses,” she says. “The prices are good, too.”
Her next meeting will be held at The Mirage Hotel & Casino in April. “Every hotel has something different to offer,” she says. “But we definitely like this one.
A positive factor, she notes, is the consistency in service enjoyed by smaller groups as well as larger ones. She says that for her own meeting with about 200 attendees, she has received the same level of attention as larger groups. “You get treated the same whether it’s five or five thousand,” she says.
Transportation is another positive factor. Many of the company’s brokers hail from Southern California, and the trip to Las Vegas is convenient.
“And connections are also great for those from elsewhere in the U.S.,” Wirtjes adds.
Patty Kindness, national sales manager, AlliedPRA Las Vegas, points to the variety of resources available to planners, including tiered accommodations and facility choices, and abundant convention and meeting services. She notes that in her experience, the area has been a great match for groups from the financial and insurance sector.
One of the special events that Kindness recently planned was a program for 3,000 attendees at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “We bought out the Neon Garage, and had a concert stage, driving and karting opportunities, games, food and beverage and more. It was like a custom carnival for the guests.
“Increasingly, we work with insurance and financial clients in Vegas and find that their meetings are so successful that they commit to the city for multiple years in advance,” she says. She is currently assisting a financial client who is following up a previous successful meeting in Las Vegas with preparations for another meeting later in 2016. The plans include a dine-around for 4,500 guests.
“This is a popular trend we’re seeing,” Kindness says, noting that a recent 1,500-person insurance meeting used this format with great success.
“Dine-arounds on this scale are something that can only logistically be accomplished in Las Vegas,” she says. She cites the buying power her organization has with restaurant groups and hotels, along with the close proximity of a variety of top-tier restaurants, as important factors in making such events successful.
“The results can be a memorable and interactive experience for participants in lieu of the standard and tired ballroom networking reception,” she says. “It’s a win-win scenario for all parties.”
Built-in entertainment is the name of the game in Las Vegas, and there is plenty of it, too.
Here’s a sampling: Caesars Palace boasts two huge shows at The Colosseum: Celine Dion performs her repertoire of hits mixed with timeless classics in her residency show; and the popular “Reba, Brooks & Dunn Together in Vegas” show is still packing them in.
Other entertainers on the Las Vegas scene include Billy Idol, who recently began his first-ever multidate residency at the House of Blues Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
Even though he won’t be a fixture in Las Vegas, the biggest-selling solo artist in American history is bringing the biggest selling tour to Las Vegas. Garth Brooks recently announced that he will return to Las Vegas for exclusive performances at the new Las Vegas Arena scheduled to open soon. Brooks sold more tickets in 2015 than any other artist in the world. He will create a live music experience unique to Las Vegas when he performs multiple shows July 2–4.
Nothing stands still in Las Vegas, or so it seems. Hotels are constantly upgrading facilities or services, and the city as a whole keeps adding attractions for visitors.
After a recent expansion, Tropicana Las Vegas, a DoubleTree by Hilton features the 55,000-sf Trinidad Pavilion at Tropicana Las Vegas, a new conference facility that’s divisible into as many as 38 breakout rooms. It includes a 25,000-sf ballroom, and the pavilion is suitable for exhibits or large general sessions. All told, more than 100,000 sf of meeting and exhibition space is available.
With the resort’s $200 million transformation, some 1,469 guest rooms and suites now feature updated furnishings and amenities. Complementing the traditional rooms are villas styled after oceanside beach houses and Miami penthouses. Other attractions include an expansive spa and fitness center, as well as a 50,000-sf casino with an assortment of slots and table games, and a new race and sports book.
In April, Tropicana plans to open a new pool club, Sky Beach Club. Inspired by the South Beach party atmosphere, it will feature two luxury pools, VIP cabanas, a deejay booth and two bars, along with bottle service. Celebrity hosts, live music acts, beer pong and table games will be part of the picture.
The Poker Room will open in May at Wynn Las Vegas and will offer an elevated experience in a roomy environment. The 8,600-sf facility will include 28 tables, a sports book window and 35 big-screen televisions.
Wynn Plaza also is underway. Slated to open in fall 2017, the large complex will boast more than 75,000 sf of luxury retail space.
Wynn features a design that “brings the outdoors in” with terraces from each meeting room offering a poolside or golf course view. Overall meeting space totals 200,000 sf, with two ballrooms ranging from 25,000 sf to 50,000 sf along with 34 meeting rooms. Two technically supported stages also are available.
Wynn’s sister property Encore features spacious terraces looking out from many of its highly configurable meeting spaces. The 60,000 sf of flexible meeting space includes 12 meeting rooms.
Designed with sports lovers in mind, The Still is a new 8,000-sf man cave with 22 televisions at The Mirage Hotel & Casino. It features a refurbished Airstream trailer that has been converted into a fully functioning kitchen for production of upscale bar food.
At The Mirage, which boasts 170,000 sf of event space, the centerpiece is the Mirage Events Center. With 90,000 sf of pillar-less space, it can be partitioned into three 30,000-sf sections. One section, in turn, can break down into three rooms of 6,500 to 10,000 sf. The 40,000-sf ballroom is complemented by a number of other rooms of varying configurations.
Guests at Caesars Palace, The Linq Hotel & Casino and Flamingo Las Vegas (and at other Caesars properties in the near future) now can take advantage of a fully integrated self check-in program incorporating email, text, Web and mobile apps along with the new kiosks.
Upon arrival, guests can proceed immediately to the check-in kiosk to begin the check-in process. This includes verifying IDs and taking payment information at the machine. The kiosk then provides either a printed key if the room is ready, or an alert to return when the room becomes available.
The expansive Caesars Palace offers an impressive 300,000 sf of meeting space. Two 51,000-sf ballrooms each accommodate more than 5,500 guests and can be reconfigured into as many as 25 separate breakout rooms. Other ballrooms include a 36,260-sf choice and a 28,592-sf facility with a roomy prefunction area, service hallways on three sides and direct access to freight elevators.
A 4,100-seat coliseum features a huge LED screen, while the 4.5-acre Garden of the Gods pool oasis is another attractive venue.
Caesars also announced plans to upgrade more than 4,800 hotel rooms at four of its Las Vegas resorts. These resort upgrades include the transformation of the original tower at Caesars Palace to create the 586-room Julius Tower as well as the refurbishment of the resort’s 948-room Augustus Tower. Additional room upgrades will include Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Paris Las Vegas and Harrah’s Las Vegas.
Planet Hollywood will reimagine more than 1,294 rooms and suites; Harrah’s Las Vegas plans to overhaul approximately 672 rooms of the hotel’s south tower and Paris Las Vegas plans to transform approximately 1,320 rooms and suites.
At The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa, a strong point is the recently restored Reflection Bay golf course. The upgrade was guided by none other than golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, the original course designer. The design combines mountain vistas with attractive views of the lake.
Located about 30 minutes from The Strip in Henderson, Nevada, The Westin Lake Las Vegas accommodates up to 2,100 guests. The 3,600-acre resort has more than 90,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space. One 20,580-sf ballroom has a capacity of 1,200, and a smaller ballroom holding 400 guests has 6,078 sf of space. The resort overlooks a 300-plus acre lake where guests can enjoy kayaking, paddleboarding or pedalboat riding around the lake.
This year a major expansion of the convention center at Aria Resort & Casino will get underway. The $154 million project, scheduled to begin in May with a February 2018 completion date, will bring an additional 200,000 sf of meeting space across four stories. It will include glass-enclosed spaces with views that include the new Las Vegas Arena. Once compete, the expansion will push Aria’s total meeting space over the 500,000 sf level.
Currently Aria, a 61-story, 4,004-guest room resort, offers four ballrooms and 38 meeting rooms. One ballroom, totaling 51,000 sf, can be divided into 10 separate meeting rooms. Two other ballrooms, divisible into eight smaller rooms, offer 38,000 sf of space each, while another has 20,000 sf of space.
At M Resort Spa Casino, the 92,000 sf of event space includes a 17,400-sf ballroom, multiple reception areas and the 25,000-sf M Pavilion.
Only seven years old, the highly rated resort offers 390 guest rooms, 4,000 parking spaces and expansive casino and entertainment space.
Of course it doesn’t get much grander than the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, which offers more than 600,000 sf of meeting space. The huge conference center has more than 380,000 sf of event space spread over three levels, with choices ranging from a 92,000-sf ballroom to a host of rooms coming in every size and configuration. And the 100,000-sf Grand Garden Arena seats up to 17,000 guests, with flexibility to serve as a dinner setting or exhibit hall.
Set to open this spring is The Park, an “oasis” mirroring the surrounding desert landscape from its location between Monte Carlo Resort and Casino and New York-New York Hotel & Casino. While serving as the pathway to the new T-Mobile Arena, the park also will offer a respite from the area’s hustle and bustle.
The Mob Museum, which bills itself as the national museum of organized crime and law enforcement, has extended its operating hours for 2016 to include “museum after dark” programs. Each evening, visitors can view behind-the-scenes objects, photos and documents not on regular display at the museum. A new feature is the ability to make a virtual visit to the museum. Thanks to the development of “Moe-Bot,” a telepresence robot, guests will be able to check out the various exhibits from a desktop computer or mobile device. Interactive guided tours will be available to anyone, anywhere.
When Speedvegas opens its motorsports complex this summer, one notable partner will be Gaudin Porsche of Las Vegas. From the ability to drive a Porsche right off of the Speedvegas track and onto the streets of Las Vegas to exclusive, invitation-only events, this partnership signifies the beginning of an unprecedented customer experience that will entice car enthusiasts from around the world.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority recently launched a Virtual Reality Companion app that helps transport meeting attendees and trade show delegates to popular attractions in the Entertainment Capital of the World. During the ITB travel trade show in Berlin, Germany, the LVCVA showcased virtual reality through Oculus Rift.
The Virtual Reality Companion app allows consumers to download the Vegas VR experience to their Apple or Android smartphone. The app includes 12 immersive Las Vegas VR experiences that can be viewed directly on a smartphone, or used with a VR Viewer such as a Google Cardboard or Oculus.
Also attractive to conference attendees are discounted multiday passes to the Las Vegas Monorail, which provides convenient transportation to the Las Vegas Convention Center and eight different city properties. The monorail system includes nine climate-controlled trains, each with four cars and 72 seats. Traveling at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, the trains arrive at each of seven stations every four to eight minutes.
An added consideration is that the glitz of the city is complemented by the area’s natural beauty and other features, ranging from striking rock formations and panoramic desert views to the modern marvel that is Hoover Dam.
In fact, beginning April 1, adventure enthusiasts who want to see a remote part of the Grand Canyon or go on a thrilling, 10-mile ATV ride to the edge of the canyon can check out the popular Bar 10 Ranch tour by Papillon Group’s Grand Canyon Scenic Airlines. Known as the Grand Canyon North Air/Ground Tour, guests are shuttled to the Boulder City Aerocenter where they board an airplane and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the Colorado River — the heart of the Grand Canyon. The tour concludes with a homemade Dutch oven barbecue lunch.
“Las Vegas has outstanding natural beauty that first-time participants generally don’t expect,” Kindness says. I&FMM