There’s a lot to like about meeting in Las Vegas. Just ask trade show attendees. For the 16th consecutive year, the city has been designated as the No. 1 trade show destination in North America, and for good reason. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), attendance soars an
|Software developer Epicor hosted its user conference at Caesars Palace last year for 1,500 participants.|
average of 14 percent when conventions rotate into the city. Though the economic downturn has slowed this business for the city — the latest numbers released by the LVCVA show that conventions and meetings were down 6.7 percent through July compared with the same period in 2009 — the picture is quickly getting brighter. Conventions and meetings, which typically are planned far in advance, will likely mirror recently improved visitor numbers: The LVCVA reported that through July, Las Vegas attracted 21.9 million visitors, up by 2.3 percent from the same period last year; room inventory was up by 4.9 percent thanks to the new CityCenter project; and average room rates rose 1 percent to $95.
The Big Deal
A choice of more than 148,000 guest rooms and more than 900 flights per day into McCarran International Airport are just part of the city’s appeal. Las Vegas offers a whopping 10.5 million plus square feet of exhibit space and is home to three of the country’s largest convention venues: the 2.2-million-square foot Las Vegas Convention Center, the 1.8-million-square-foot Sands Expo and Convention Center and the 1.7-million-square-foot Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Plus, the city offers an ever-evolving array of dining, shopping and entertainment options for attendees to explore.
Jessica Levin, CMP, manager of communications and member services for Moore Stephens North America Inc., has held several meetings in Las Vegas. She explained why. “Las Vegas is reasonably easy to get to, and the room rates are generally lower than other locations. For groups that enjoy fine dining, Las Vegas can’t be beat. There is so much entertainment that it is easy to find things for attendees to do. The entire city is focused on hospitality, and this makes meeting planning easier in general because everyone is there to serve.”
Success On A Palatial Scale
Cindy Valdes, CMP, senior director, marketing events for the software company Epicor in Irvine, CA plans an annual customer user conference that attracts 1,500 participants from around the world. She explained why Las Vegas is one of the company’s favorite sites for the event. “It’s known globally as a destination. Our attendance is good when we’re in Vegas. It’s a nice draw. “And,” she added, “the 10-minute ride from the airport is really nice.”
Caesars Palace, which offers more than 3,348 guest rooms and suites and 300,000 square feet of meeting space, is Epicor’s venue of choice. “We’ve been a partner of theirs for over the last 10 years,” Valdes said. “They’re just a great partner to work with, especially when we had the downturn in the economy. They were very responsive.” She also praised the hotel’s meeting space. “This is a breakout-intensive meeting with about 26 breakouts happening at the same time. Vegas is one of those wonderful locations that is able to handle us and service our needs.”
Valdes noted another advantage of meeting in Las Vegas. “The interesting thing about Las Vegas is when we do a meeting there, we tend to cut our networking evenings a little shorter because there is such a wide variety of entertainment and restaurant options. The pricing of restaurants and activities from very high end to casual is great. It’s a really nice advantage.”
Caesars Palace recently unveiled three new villas averaging 8,800 square feet each. The Octavius Villas, which are named after French, Grecian and Spanish emperors, feature private elevators, hand-painted murals, a billiard room, home entertainment theater and other amenities.
The Power Of Eight
Caesars Palace is part of Las Vegas Meetings by Harrah’s Entertainment (LVMHE), which also owns Bally’s Las Vegas, Flamingo Las Vegas, Harrah’s Las Vegas, Imperial Palace Las Vegas, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino and Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
“We call it the eight-stop strategy,” explained Jordan Clark, vice president of sales for Harrah’s
|The 20,000-square-foot Brasilia Ballroom at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino accommodates meetings of up to 2,200 attendees.|
Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Meetings by Harrah’s Entertainment
Entertainment. “When you sign a contract at Planet Hollywood (for example), it’s the exact same contract as the Flamingo. If you want to use up some of your food and beverage minimums and you decide you want to have your opening reception at the pool at Caesars, no problem. We operate them as one hotel.” Harrah’s runs a shuttle service between its eight properties and guests have charge-back privileges at each of them.
Clark said, “Over the last two years, I think the one thing that we’ve all learned is that what’s important to one customer is not necessarily even close to what is important to another customer. We book about 4,500 meetings a year in our eight facilities, so we have a lot of interactions, and every single one of those is a customized deal.”
In recent news, Harrah’s Entertainment became the first major casino operator on the Las Vegas Strip to completely eliminate mandatory resort fees from all eight of its LVMHE properties.
The newest addition to LVMHE is the 3,700-room Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. “Bringing Planet Hollywood on was such as wonderful addition to our family,” Clark noted. “It’s a hip and trendy hotel that’s recently been renovated. The product is in excellent shape, and the team that works there is just over the top, and they really understand and get that whole customer service perspective. The meeting space is really something special. It’s got a unique set of flexibility to it for a group in the 300–500 range.” Included in the resort’s 100,000 square feet of meeting space are two theaters that feature permanent staging, dressing
|Banquet setup at Aria Resort & Casino’s convention center.|
Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International
rooms, green rooms, and professional lighting and sound systems. Wyndham Hotel Group recently announced in Las Vegas their license agreement to franchise the Planet Hollywood Hotels brand and provide management services globally.
Bally’s is putting the finishing touches on a multimillion-dollar revamp of its meeting space. “Bally’s is a wonderfully popular meetings destination,” Clark noted. “It’s probably one of the best kept secrets in Vegas. Bally’s has a ton of meeting space, and they have huge, huge guest rooms. The footprint of the building is really neat. It’s conducive to being a big facility with tons of options but not making you feel like you’re in something that’s so huge you can’t get around in it.” Bally’s offers 2,814 guest rooms and more than 175,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.
Last summer, Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino debuted its new Crown Theater and Crown Nightclub. The theater, which features a unique and intimate in-the-round design that accommodates 900 guests, showcases live concerts with top name acts. Rio has 2,520 suites and 163,000 square feet of meeting space that is easily configured for large or small meetings. The Penn & Teller Theater, home to the renowned magicians, can be reserved for groups of up to 1,500 theater-style. Including the pool deck at Voodoo Beach, which accommodates 3,000, a total of 500,000 square feet of outdoor event space is
|New York-New York Hotel and Casino is more than a little piece of the Big Apple with its replicas of Manhattan’s iconic structures.|
Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts International
The Red Rock Rocks
One of Levin’s favorite properties is the Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa. Located approximately 10 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, the property offers more than 800 guest rooms and suites, and 94,000 square feet of meeting space. It is owned and managed by Station Casinos.
“The property is very well designed and easy to navigate,” Levin explained. “The best way to describe the meeting space is ‘smart.’ They offer a lot of flexibility in room design due to the air-wall configuration and have several rooms with natural light. I like that when you enter the hotel you can get to your room and never see the casino, although the casino is very centrally located. They have great eating venues, and all of the amenities of an on-Strip hotel.”
The Red Rock’s amenities include nine restaurants, a food court, a 25,000-square-foot spa and an “adventure spa” that offers customized hiking, kayaking, rock climbing and mountain biking excursions. The resort also offers 81 suites, including the 6,650-square-foot “One 80” suite named for the 180-degree views that it offers of The Strip and the Red Rock mountain range.
The hospitality company MGM Mirage recently rebranded to become MGM Resorts International. The company’s Las Vegas properties include Aria, Vdara, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Excalibur, Luxor and Circus Circus.
The newest “jewels” in the MGM crown are the 4,004-room Aria Resort & Casino and Vdara Hotel &
|Wynn Las Vegas and sister property Encore offer a combined 280,000 square feet of meeting space and 4,750 guest rooms.|
Photo courtesy of LVCVA
Spa, a 1,495-suite non-gaming hotel. Both are housed within CityCenter, the 67-acre high-rise shopping, dining and entertainment complex that opened on The Strip in 2009. Aria’s convention facility encompasses three levels and features 300,000 square feet for meetings including four ballrooms and 38 meeting rooms. Vdara offers more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space including a ballroom and 14-person executive boardroom. For outdoor events, the Vdara Pool & Lounge can accommodate up to 1,200 guests.
Among The Strip’s mega-meeting space resort casinos is New York-New York Hotel and Casino, which offers the ideal setting for less-than-mega-sized business meetings and events with 21,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel’s Manhattan-skyline facade includes a 150-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty, an Empire State Building and a 300-foot Brooklyn Bridge, which can accommodate open-air receptions for up to 1,000 attendees in its 10,000 square feet of space. New York-New York is only hotel on The Strip with a roller coaster of the authentic white-knuckle variety. Dining options include New York City-based Gallagher’s Steakhouse and Nine Fine Irishmen
MGM Resorts’ properties have ranked high in the Green Key Eco-Rating Program, the largest international program evaluating sustainable hotel operations. Aria and Vdara took the highest honors with “5 Keys” each (the highest level). “4 Keys” designations went to Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand Las Vegas, The Mirage, Monte Carlo and New York-New York. Aria and Vdara also have been
|It’s a sure bet that attendees will emerge energized following a Blue Man Group performance at Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. |
Photo courtesy of Blue Man Group
awarded the prestigious LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification for sustainable design and construction from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Wynn Woos Meeting Planners
Wynn Las Vegas and Encore are hosting an Educational Forum for meeting planners in November. Planners invited to participate in the event will attend a seminar on measuring meetings’ return on investment led by Theresa Breining, principal with Breining Group LLC. Participants also will attend exclusive events designed to introduce them to Wynn’s and Encore’s signature offerings.
Wynn Las Vegas features 2,716 luxury guest rooms and suites, a casino, 22 food and beverage outlets, an onsite 18-hole golf course and more than 220,000 square feet of meeting space. An onsite Ferrari and Maserati dealership offers an interesting diversion for the big spenders or dreamers in the group. Wynn’s sister property, Encore, is located next door and features 2,034 suites, a casino, 12 food and beverage outlets, a night club and spa, along with approximately 60,000 square feet of meeting space.
Sands Stacks Up Awards
The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and The Palazzo Las Vegas, which are owned and operated by Las Vegas Sands Corporation, have both achieved AAA Five Diamond status for 2010. The two hotels have a combined offering of 7,100 all-suite rooms. Together with the adjacent Sands Expo and Convention Center, the three venues offer 2.25 million square feet of meeting space. The Venetian is known for its elegant old world ambience with indoor streetscape and Grand Canal featuring singing gondoliers. The Palazzo appeals to guests in search of world-class luxury shopping, dining and entertainment choices. One of the most popular entertainment options for groups is Blue Man Group, performing in the Venetian’s 1,760-seat theater, which was custom-designed for the show. Corporate groups can take advantage of
|Billed as Las Vegas’ only live cooking show, Martini Time with Chef Tina Martini at M Resort Spa Casino can be customized for corporate group events.|
Photo courtesy of M Resort Spa Casino
private shows in which the group’s meeting message is integrated into the Blue Man Group’s singularly dynamic performance.
Sands recently launched what it calls the Sands Eco 360° Global Sustainable Development program, which focuses on the company’s green business practices. The company’s Venetian resort and Sands Expo and Convention Center have each achieved LEED Gold for Existing Buildings certification. The Palazzo achieved LEED Silver certification in 2008, and the three entities combined now comprise the largest LEED building in the world.
The ‘V’ In Vegas Stands For Value
Clark wants planners to know that they can experience significant savings and value when they book their meetings in Las Vegas. “I think people in the past have unfortunately looked at Las Vegas in an inopportune light, meaning that, ‘Oh, it might be too “spendy” or too over the top for my company.’?” To the contrary, he said, “Vegas has always been a great value. Our value proposition has not changed. The flexibility is there, and we continue to evolve with the times.”
He also noted that Las Vegas has so many shops, restaurants and entertainment options that planners no longer have to make extensive plans for the evening. He gave the example of abandoning the huge final night gala in place of having a shorter reception on-property, then letting attendees go out and choose their
|Opening in December, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas will feature 2,995 guest rooms and 150,000 square feet of meeting space.|
PRNewsFoto/The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Thomas Hart Shelby
own entertainment afterwards. “From a planning perspective, it’s not only easier, but it becomes more cost effective for organizations because there are so many choices. If you’re in a city that doesn’t have as much to offer, you have to provide those things because there is nothing going on after 6 p.m. downtown in that particular city. That doesn’t positively affect your ROI on your meeting.”
What’s New Or Improved
The city’s newest resort, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, is slated to open December 15. Located in the heart of The Strip between CityCenter and the Bellagio, the 2,995-room property will feature two 50-story towers housing oversized hotel and condominium-style rooms as well as 10 three-story, bungalow-style suites that open onto a pool deck. The property also will offer 150,000 square feet of meeting space and a 50,000-square-foot spa.
The 1,658-room Tropicana Las Vegas recently completed a $165 million renovation of its deluxe rooms and suites to give the property a “tropical and sultry South Beach vibe.” New amenities include custom-designed furnishings, plantation shutters, 42-inch flat-panel plasma TVs and original artwork by a Latin artist. Phase two of the renovation, which will include the transformation of the hotel’s four-acre pool area into the Nikki Beach Club and Club Nikki, is scheduled to be completed in the spring. The Tropicana has a conference center onsite with more than 100,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. Coming to the Tropicana in December is the Las Vegas Mob Experience, an interactive exhibit of more than 1,000 artifacts from infamous members of organized crime.
South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa recently unveiled a 55,000-square-foot expansion of its casino, giving it one of the largest gaming floors in any casino in the U.S. The off-Strip hotel, which bills itself as offering “affordable luxury,” has 2,163 oversized guest rooms, including an all-suite top floor. The 170,000 square feet of flexible meeting and banquet space includes an 80,000-square-foot, column-free exhibit hall, a 22,000-square-foot ballroom with permanent stage and 22 breakout rooms.
The Bellagio recently launched the FlyteChannel, which allows guests to view live airport arrival and departure screens without leaving the comfort of their hotel room. Guests can use the service to check flight times, arrivals and gate assignments as well as to identify alternative flights if necessary.
Located just off The Strip, M Resort Spa Casino recently debuted a venue planners can book that features a live cooking show in a custom-built, 40-seat studio. Called Martini Time with Chef Tina Martini, the show also can be used for educational demonstrations and teambuilding activities
Vegas Continues To Mean Business
Valdes summed up her impressions of Las Vegas as a meetings destination. “We really enjoy it there. I think Las Vegas has come a long way from 10 years ago in how they treat meetings and conventions. I think it’s a very positive direction they’re moving in.” C&IT