While COVID-19 has upended meeting plans at a dizzying pace, host destinations are readying plans to welcome back event organizers when safe to do so. There are plenty of reasons why Las Vegas attracts more than 6.5 million meeting and conference attendees annually. From small meetings of less than 100 to large-scale trade show events for more than 100,000, for C-suite level executives to start-up entrepreneurs, when it comes to hosting meeting attendees, Las Vegas takes the spotlight. As the meetings landscape evolves, here’s a reminder of why Las Vegas-Reno has served as a one-stop destination for meeting planner needs beyond the razzle-dazzle allure of its famed neon lights and unlimited entertainment.
For its easy accessibility, Las Vegas is a top choice that pays off in big dividends for meeting planners. Most hotels and resorts are within a 15-minute drive of McCarran International Airport. Gayle Strawn, conference director for Franchise Times, says, “Las Vegas is an easy city for attendees to fly in and out of. We have been doing conferences for 30 years. We moved our largest conference, the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference, to Las Vegas many years ago and it increased our attendance and it continues to grow.”
Kemper Lease, event coordinator supervisor for Jack Henry and Associates Inc., adds, “We have attendees coming in from all over the country,” so having an airport centrally located is paramount.
Variety of Meeting Spaces & Accommodations
Apart from Las Vegas’ desirable geographical location, equally important for organizers is finding the right match for their meeting needs, whether based on size or ambience. With more than 150 properties with meeting facilities and more than 11.5 million sf of convention space, meeting planners have their pick of versatile venues in Las Vegas from which to make their selections.
The new 550,000-sf Caesars Forum is the first facility of its size built on one level and can host up to 10,000 attendees. The new addition will feature an onsite kitchen with more than 300,000 sf of flexible meeting space. For perspective, it will feature the two largest pillar-less ballrooms in the world, Forum and Summit Ballrooms, each covering 110,000 sf of meeting space; which can fit one football field in length. With its silver LEED certification, Caesars Forum is estimated to be 44% more water efficient than other buildings of similar size, saving a projected amount of 4.6 million gallons of water per year.
The historic Tropicana Las Vegas, A DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, has 100,000 sf of meeting space. Their new conference facility boasts a 25,000 sf ballroom, a 55,000 sf pavilion for large sessions and exhibits, and one of the fastest Wi-Fi services in Las Vegas. They also have elaborate venues, such as the Havana Room and Sky Beach Club, as well as their Legends in Concert Theater that accommodates up to 1,200 attendees with its oversized cabaret- and theater-style seating. Attendees can relax by Tropicana’s pool, relax at their Glow Spa and Salon or dine at one of their restaurants. They also have a variety of entertainment options available, including their casino.
Within Las Vegas, Lease says he has found ARIA Resort & Casino to be a good fit for his meeting needs over the last five to six years. With 500,000 sf of meeting space, including ballrooms of up to 51,225 sf that can be subdivided into two to 10 sections, ARIA can easily handle larger groups. He says, “Our size groups fit well there. ARIA is very unique in that it’s not designed like bigger themed hotels as the meeting spaces are above the casino. ARIA also repurposed its old theater, creating three different levels of meeting space. The premises are very clean and updated. It’s a great business meeting hotel.” He adds, “The whole city center area is just so centrally located to the main Strip. It’s in a great location for evening entertainment and attendees don’t need a cab or Uber to get where they want to go.”
Greg Dyson, national sales manager for Sallyport Commercial Finance LLC, echoes the importance of selecting the right property for meetings. “For us, Treasure Island Hotel & Casino was a strategic location for our team’s meeting. The property offered everything we needed, so we didn’t have to venture offsite,” he says. “Although, having access to other conferences around town was also a benefit. We had a great experience from start to finish. The marketing team responded to our requests immediately and found ways to accommodate our requests. Everything was set up and ready to go from catering to audio visual. I’m grateful that everything worked smoothly and we were able to focus on our meeting. Our whole team enjoyed the accommodations, the entertainment and bar. We’ll be back.”
Strawn is a happy advocate for Wynn Las Vegas. “With its reputation as a luxury hotel, attendees love being at the Wynn. It’s classy and beautiful.” Attendees have cited several factors that define Wynn’s reputation as a luxury property. At the top of the list, Wynn’s world-class service and hospitality helps build long-term partnerships with client organizations. Its expansive site is another factor with 560,000 sf of meeting space, following a 430,000 sf expansion. Add in five-star entertainment featuring top headliners, more than 30 F&B options and first-class retailers. In addition, they have a newly designed 18-hole golf course. “Luckily, we have been to the property several times and that helps with all the details,” Strawn says. “Our attendees have a great experience at the Wynn and rave about it.”
The Venetian Resort offers a total of 2.25 million sf of space, perfect for meeting planners. They also have unique spaces such as 10 outdoor poolside options and four theaters. Entertainment options include gondola rides; live music; an assortment of nightclubs, including TAO Nightclub, and more.
The Venetian Resort has more than 1 million sf of space within its five large expo halls. This is in addition to its various meeting rooms, making for a total of 2.25 million sf of space, perfect for meeting planners. They also have unique spaces, such as 10 outdoor poolside options and four theaters. Attendees can stay at one of their two towers and take advantage of the amenities. They are known for their Grand Canal Shops and gondola rides, but there is plenty more to see and do, including live entertainment, fine dining and nightlife. Attendees can also take a break to work out or just relax with a spa treatment at the Canyon Ranch Spa + Fitness.
Planners can look forward to Resorts World Las Vegas, slated to open in summer 2021. The $4.3 billion resort will include three Hilton premium brands — Hilton Hotels & Resorts, LXR and Conrad. It will be part of Hilton Honors, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 18 distinct brands, offering members direct access to instant benefits for guests, including flexible payment options, exclusive member discounts, Digital Key and more. Attendees will have access to the resort’s premier facilities, including a 5,000-seat, state-of-the-art theater which is scalable to host A-list celebrity residencies and corporate events; 350,000 sf of meeting and convention space; a 220,000 sf pool complex with seven unique pool experiences; a spa and fitness center; an extensive collection of casual and fine-dining F&B concepts and more.
While meeting planners typically rely on in-house catering for event luncheons, dinners and snacks, many like having options close by the meeting venues for attendees. Over the last several years, Las Vegas has transitioned well past its signature buffet-style eateries into a trendy culinary capital destination, attracting celebrity chefs, featuring fusion cuisine that combines food from other cultures and traditions, and offering a greater variety of affordable dining options. Considering the plethora of late-night dining options available, it rivals the Big Apple as being a “city that never sleeps.”
There are a number of outstanding restaurants available at ARIA, such as fan favorites Jean Georges Steakhouse, especially for Kobe A5 beef connoisseurs, and Bardot Brasserie for French cuisine and wine enthusiasts. New restaurants onsite include chef Shawn McLain’s Sage, featuring fresh farm-to-table seasonal ingredients; Julian Serrano’s self-named restaurant, showcasing such Spanish dishes as tapas and paella; and Michael Mina’s American Fish, with its vast variety of fish and shellfish.
At Treasure Island, the new Corner Market Buffet offers world-class dining in a casual atmosphere while the new Golden Circle Sports Bar next door features a 24-foot by 5-foot, panoramic LED video wall for patrons’ viewing pleasure, which can also be used for select meeting group events.
Elsewhere on the Las Vegas Strip and within surrounding neighborhoods, meeting planners also have a wealth of dining choices. Wynn Las Vegas’ food and beverage options ranging from fine to casual, as well as group dining, including three Forbes Travel Guide four-star awarded restaurants. Their Sinatra Restaurant took home top honors for the fourth consecutive year as the “Best Italian” restaurant, featuring many of the legendary crooner’s personal favorite dishes. Wynn’s Lakeside took home the “Best Brunch” honor for the first time, featuring a live jazz band brunch. Last year, their SW Steakhouse was honored as being the “Best Steakhouse” for its classic cuisine by Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association (SNHCA) for the fifth year. They also recently opened a new high-end Mexican Restaurant, called Elio, adjacent to the Encore Beach Club, with chefs Enrique Olvera, Daniela Soto-Innes and Santiago Perez.
Meanwhile, Palms Casino Resort completed a multifaceted, $690 million renovation last fall that included new partnerships with celebrity chefs, such as Bobby Flay, at the Shark restaurant, and a new restaurant, Tim Ho Wan, a Hong Kong venue offering authentic modern Chinese dim sum.
Whether trying their luck at the local casinos, catching a show featuring performance legends such as country star Keith Urban at Caesars Palace, master magician/illusionist David Copperfield at MGM Grand or impersonator Rich Little at the Tropicana, attendees have no shortage of entertainment options in Las Vegas, not to mention stage productions like Le Rêve — The Dream, at Wynn, voted “Best Production Show” in Las Vegas by the SNHCA for nine consecutive years. “Las Vegas is such a unique destination. You can do so many things there and be entertained with shows and restaurants. There’s all kinds of things to do,” Lease says. “Even simply people-watching on the Strip has its own appeal. I mean, how can you compete with this at home?”
For meeting planners worried that having so many entertainment options might keep participants from attending the meetings that brought them to Las Vegas in the first place, Lease offers this reassurance: “Our attendees are respectful. We have no problem getting people into meetings the next day.” His best advice for alleviating any meeting planner concerns? “We try to be creative in our agenda programming. We keep them occupied with receptions and networking events.”
After a whirlwind day of meetings and social events, attendees looking for rest and relaxation can head to any one of a number of hotel spas for the ultimate in pampering packages. As the largest of Forbes five-star-awarded spas in the United States covering 80,000 sf on two levels, the Spa & Salon at ARIA offers 62 treatment rooms, in addition to a full-service salon and state-of-the-art fitness center. It also features a one-of-a-kind co-ed spa balcony that surrounds an infinity-edge therapy pool. Those who go to the spa can enjoy a unique Japanese ganbanyoku (stone) bed for releasing tension, the Shio Salt Room of vibration therapy and music, or a 50- to 80-minute pomegranate and fig massage that’s sure to refresh not only the body, but mind and spirit as well. Meanwhile, the Cleopatra Golden Goddess Facial at Qua Baths & Spas at Caesars Palace will have attendees feeling like royalty after reveling in an 80-minute, 24-karat gold facial.
Las Vegas continues its reputation as a destination that offers it all. It is an ever-evolving city. The visitor experience continues to improve with openings of trendy new dining venues, as well as expanding meeting spaces with state-of-the-art meeting technology, guest rooms and casino renovations, in addition to creative new ways to integrate attendees into the wider community.
For meeting planners seeking an alternative to Las Vegas for their conference needs, Reno/Tahoe offers an enticing alternative. In the last four years, Reno-Tahoe International Airport has expanded its capacity 25%, with 10 airlines now offering non-stop flights to the “Biggest Little City in the World.” Three-hundred days of sunshine add to the city’s appeal, along with its reputation for friendly locals and affordable meeting venues, attracting such innovative giants as Amazon, Apple, Tesla and eBay to the area.
AAA Four-Diamond property Peppermill Resort Spa Casino features 106,000 sf of meeting space, highlighted by impeccable service in several different venues: The Tuscany Ballroom, which showcases Northern Nevada’s largest clear-span meeting space of 62,000 sf, and newly renovated ballrooms such as the Sorrento, Naples and Capri, offering up to 12,000 sf of flexible meeting spaces. Attendees can unwind in the beautiful Mediterranean-inspired, three-story, 33,000 sf Peppermill Reno Spa and Salon with its 24 treatment rooms, full service salon, indoor pool and a sun deck. For entertainment, attendees can select from onsite gaming, sports bars and nightclub venues.
Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, another AAA Four-Diamond resort, bills itself as “the only resort directly connected to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.” The single-level, 600,000 sf facility recently underwent a $10 million renovation. It features 50,000 sf of versatile meeting space complete with state-of-the-art technology, two ballrooms of more than 12,000 sf, 22 meeting rooms, and a high-tech executive boardroom with convenient access to guest elevators and restrooms. Spa Atlantis, Reno’s first Forbes four-star luxury spa, has 15 luxurious treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor pools/ whirlpools, three co-ed lounges and a Cardio Fitness Center.
The Grand Sierra has more than 200,000 sf of meeting space with more than 45 breakout rooms. Attendees can spend their off time in the movie theater, at the ice rink, in the bowling alley, at the driving range and partaking in other fun activities. They even have an escape room, perfect for a team-building activity. There is also a Kids Zone, as well as golf karts, virtual reality and other games, and more. Adults might find sitting at the spa or by the pool to be more their speed, or spending time shopping and grabbing a great meal on restaurant row.
No matter which venue you choose, you are certain to find plenty for your attendees to do here, and they will surely have much to share when they return home. | I&FMM |