When it comes to thinking about the best ultimate place to host meetings, events and conventions for groups of all sizes, Las Vegas truly offers something for everyone. Just ask Greg Jenkins, partner at Bravo Productions in Long Beach, California. Jenkins and his team have staged several meetings, events and trade shows in Las Vegas throughout the years.
In Jenkins’ experience, not only does Las Vegas offer a plethora of hotel rooms, there is an extensive array of convention, meeting and event space options to accommodate groups as small as 25 to thousands of attendees. And in addition to audiovisual, catering and essential services to accommodate a large group, Las Vegas hotels offer a wide range of concierge services. These types of services are vital in helping meeting planners and attendees manage the wealth of venue options and experiences that Las Vegas has to offer. Concierge services may include a sightseeing trip to Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, or organizing numerous theatrical shows on the Strip. “Depending how far in advance a planner books space in Las Vegas, you can probably find a headquarter hotel to accommodate all of your attendees under one roof,” Jenkins says. “A planner may also be able to negotiate the contract and get a good rate based on peaks and valleys in Vegas.”
Indeed, as Amy Robb, meeting planner at Meetings Made Easy, explains, Las Vegas offers a tremendous value for both the planner and the attendee. For the planner, the larger venues offer more flexibility and negotiations in use of space versus room blocks, but even the smaller venues, both on and off the Strip, have a lot of room for negotiation to bring groups in-house, while still offering them the Las Vegas experience. “You can guarantee entertainment, restaurants and nightlife for your attendees, and attendance noticeably increases when events are held in Las Vegas versus other big cities,” Robb says. “You can almost always guarantee that a percentage of your attendees will increase their pre- or post-stay, which helps your overall room block.”
As for attendees, the benefit is location and entertainment. These include exceptional access to restaurants and famous chefs, an easy-to-navigate destination, plenty of entertainment from shows to nightlife to gaming, and a multitude of incentives to extend their stay at the back end of a work trip. In addition, Las Vegas is an exciting city — one that doesn’t go to sleep. There’s always something to do in Las Vegas regardless of the time of day or night. “Many attendees love the opportunity to indulge in [gaming], partake of the many lounges in each of the hotels, bus and adventure tours, golf — and even just people watch,” Jenkins says.
Robb has planned several annual conventions in Las Vegas, as multiple clients have repeatedly held their event in Las Vegas every year instead of looking for venues in alternate cities. “The events I have hosted have been smaller in size from 150 attendees to larger events of 2,000 attendees,” Robb says. “All of these events included a vendor showcase or trade show component. I can tell you that one of my smaller events had a year when they decided to leave Las Vegas, and attendance dropped by 15%. The next year we returned to Las Vegas and the attendance increased by 25% from the prior year before. For me, Las Vegas has a high ROI based on the destination alone, especially if you have international attendees, as they use the conference or convention as a starting off point for an extended stay in the U.S.”
Sarah Sebastian, owner of Rose Gold Collective, says Las Vegas is a city that has wide appeal for attendees with interests that range from gaming to cuisine from the top chefs of the world. “This, combined with just as many great outdoor spaces and pool spaces to indoor ballroom spaces, creates a lot of options for planners looking for traditional meeting spaces, but can easily transition to unique outdoor spaces and off-site options,” Sebastian says. “Above all, the city knows how to do events. They not only love bringing corporate events to life, they breathe it.”
Sebastian and her team enjoy producing events in Las Vegas because the city offers the capability to host intimate VIP events all the way to events on a large scale, and often under the same roof. “The flexibility in spaces, as well as being beautifully designed, are an easy draw for planners,” Sebastian says. “We personally love the unique venues, such as the Neon Museum, and the constant upgrading of technology and new venues. We are excited to host an event at the [Circa Resort & Casino] in the future with their multi-tier, amphitheater-style pool set up. One of the things we do hear from groups is they want to stay close and not travel all around town. Las Vegas properties have such a vast choice in venues and restaurants, with multiple genres, and offer the opportunity to keep your guests all in one place while having multiple experiences.”
Tracy Stuckrath, founder and chief food officer at Thrive! Meetings & Events, has planned association conventions, international sales meetings and smaller regional meetings in Las Vegas. She’s hosted an event in all but two of the hotels on the Strip throughout her meeting planning career. “Determine how much of Las Vegas you want to be part of your event. Do you need the airlift, location and entertainment or do you want to be secluded?” Stuckrath says. “You can find both in Las Vegas. You also have to be cognizant on your attendee participation in the event versus all of the sights and sounds of the city.”
Scott Mifsud, meeting planner and general manager at Just Right! Destination Management, says that the key draw that Las Vegas offers is simply the number of things to do in one location. “Meetings, gaming, food, shows, entertainment . . . and did I mention the food?” Mifsud says. “The restaurants are some of the best in the country. It is one the few places you can do a ‘dine around’ with chefs from all over the world. There is so much to do that your attendees will not want to leave.”
As a nationwide company, Just Right! support clients all over the United States, including Las Vegas. “We have one client who comes to Las Vegas a lot,” Mifsud says. “We supported them during a 1,500-person technology conference. We helped plan transportation, décor, off-site events, dinners and staffing. It was a great experience for the customers during their week in Las Vegas.”
For that client and others with whom Mifsud has worked, the variety found within Las Vegas is the biggest draw. “You really can create an amazing event,” Mifsud says. “From Vegas Strip-view dinners to hikes in the Red Rocks, to catching a show at Brooklyn Bowl. In a day, you can take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, catch a Cirque du Soleil show and then a late dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant.”
One venerable venue offering the best of what Las Vegas has to offer is South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa. From award-winning restaurants to the latest gaming amenities, to large meeting and event spaces, to luxurious rooms and suites, South Point offers it all. Its 11 restaurants offer variety that will please any palate. Michael’s Gourmet Room offers an intimate, 50-seat dining experience like no other. There is also the Silverado Steakhouse, Don Vito’s Italian Restaurant, Primarily Prime Rib, Baja Miguel’s, Big Sur Oyster Bar, Zenshin Asian and more. The casino has more than 2,200 popular slot and video poker machines and more than 60 table games, which include blackjack, craps, roulette and baccarat. South Point also offers 175,000 sf of meetings and events space, which includes a 70,000-sf Conference Center, an 80,000-sf, column-free Exhibit Hall, Executive Conference Rooms and as many as 22 breakout rooms.
What’s New in Las Vegas
For decades, Las Vegas has been the epicenter for meetings, conventions and events of all sizes. Due to the recent pandemic, the activity of Las Vegas, like most places in the U.S., have been significantly altered. And while the pandemic restrictions have certainly changed the Las Vegas environment, Las Vegas venues have made significant strides in adapting their interior and exterior spaces to meet social distancing guidelines. In addition to working diligently to welcome visitors back in a safe and effective way, many Las Vegas venues have also continued to work to expand and enhance their offerings.
One of the newest additions to Las Vegas is the Circa Resort & Casino. Located in downtown Las Vegas, the Circa Resort is a 1.25 million-sf, adults-only property boasting vintage design and cutting-edge amenities. To accommodate the increasing interest in outdoor venue options, Circa offers a rooftop pool amphitheater, complete with a 40-foot-tall screen, hundreds of chaise lounges and six tiered pools. This amphitheater is just one of several unique meeting space options offered by Circa.
Opening this year, The Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is located in the former Hard Rock Resort & Casino. Innovatively designed, this renovated locale features 5 acres of upgraded outdoor spaces and pools, and a wealth of vibrant and dynamic event spaces. The new outdoor experience combines a resort pool, day club, and the Promenade and Event Lawn. The Virgin Hotel Las Vegas’ indoor meeting and event space includes 130,000 sf of expansive event space, as well as new world-class restaurants, lounges and bars.
A new luxurious addition to the Las Vegas Strip is the Resorts World Las Vegas, which is set to open in the summer. In partnership with Hilton, Resorts World Las Vegas will offer luxury guest rooms and suites from three Hilton brands, including Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and the ultra-luxe Crockfords Las Vegas. Located adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion, Resorts World Las Vegas will offer meeting space for groups of all sizes — from small, private events to expansive gatherings of thousands. The resort’s 100,000-sf event center features pillar-less space with flexible configurations for a multitude of functions. In addition, the Theatre is a 5,000-capacity, state-of-the-art space and a 5.5-acre pool complex offers unique luxury environs for groups.
Of course, no trip to Las Vegas would be complete without a visit to The Venetian Resort, which recently introduced its 8,000-sf Stella Studio, a multifunctional space that is ideal for a variety of events and gatherings. Complete with a private entrance, dedicated kitchen and bar, and private restrooms, Stella Studio is also easily accessible from the lobby of The Palazzo tower at The Venetian Resort.
When conventions come back full swing, meeting planners will celebrate the 1.4 million-sf Las Vegas Convention Center’s West Hall expansion. The expansion includes 600,000 sf of exhibit space and 150,000 sf of meeting rooms. The customizable trade show exhibit space increases the total campus exhibition space to 2.5 million sf.
AREA15 also recently opened in Las Vegas. Offering 40,000 sf of indoor and outdoor event space, the venue also offers 800 free parking spaces — a huge plus as more event attendees are opting to drive to meetings and events. Located minutes from the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, AREA15 features bars and eateries, as well as unique retail, art installations and activities.
Another new Las Vegas venue, Allegiant Stadium, is not only home to the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, but also is available for private events. Opened last summer, Allegiant Stadium boasts more than 10 different event spaces that can host everything from small 25-person events to a 65,000-attendee venue buyout.
As more meeting and event attendees request outdoor event options, the recent MGM Grand Conference Center expansion offers a 5,500-sf outdoor courtyard, expanding the region’s open-air venue options. In addition to this expansion, MGM Grand — with 380,000 sf of meetings and events space — also is now offering a complete floor of health-focused Stay Well Meetings rooms as part of the venue’s commitment to provide the utmost in safe meeting options for groups.
And while the opening of long-awaited CAESARS FORUM was somewhat overshadowed by COVID-19’s impact on the Las Vegas community, the venue is open, and hosting meetings and events. Meeting planners can consider the 550,000-sf conference center for their upcoming event. The conference center includes two 110,000-sf, pillar-less ballrooms, two 40,000-sf ballrooms and 100 breakout rooms. Social distancing is not a problem at the expansive configurable space, and attendees can also spread out to the 100,000-sf FORUM Plaza, the adjacent outdoor space ideal for outdoor gatherings and events. The adjacent open-air LINQ Promenade also boasts additional dining and entertainment options.
Making the Most of Las Vegas
So how can meeting planners evaluate and determine the best Las Vegas venue for their particular meeting, event or convention? Stuckrath recommends that planners make sure they are aware of and communicate the amenities, activities and dress code for the venues they may be using. Stuckrath organized a regional human resources meeting in Las Vegas a few years ago. “Attendees who tried to use the hotel pool on a Sunday before we kicked off were denied access because the city’s locals’ ‘party’ was happening, and my attendees were wearing too many clothes,” Stuckrath says. “They could have used the pool, if they were dressed appropriately. The behavior in the hotel pool was not appropriate for a regional human resources conference. My internal client chose that hotel because the rate was only $99/night. The hotel did not disclose this event. Needless to say, we never used that hotel again.”
Mifsud says it is vital that meeting planners know their attendees and what is important to them. “Las Vegas has so much to offer both on and off the Strip, it can be overwhelming,” he says. “If you narrow down what is important to them you can find the perfect venue or options for your meeting and event.”
Meeting planners also recommend that other planners utilize the Las Vegas’ Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). “They are so great in helping you find the right space for your group. Just because a resort has the space and rates you’re looking for, doesn’t mean it’ll be a good fit if your attendees,” Robb says. For example, consider the length of the walk from the rooms to the meeting space and if that’ll work for your group. Also, it’s worth considering if the hotel allows group dining in on-site restaurants to count toward your food and beverage minimums if your team doesn’t have many in-meeting meals planned but need the meeting space. “The [LVCVA] will help you make the decision that is right for your group,” Robb says.
Reno Carves Out Its Own Niche
In Reno, THE ROW is a Caesars Entertainment destination comprising three distinct resorts: Eldorado Resort Casino, Silver Legacy Resort Casino and Circus Circus Resort Casino. At THE ROW, convention guests can choose between 25 dining experiences, 11 nightspots, 23 bars and lounges, a showroom that showcases Broadway-style entertainment, a comedy club, a large variety of shopping venues and a luxury spa.
THE ROW is located only 3 miles from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and guests can often find their way from the tarmac to their guest room within 30 minutes. Caesar’s Entertainment is also continuing with enhancements to better fit the growing needs of its convention clients. More than 80% of the THE ROW’s guest rooms and suites have been renovated, with the remainder currently being renovated, or scheduled to be completed shortly. In addition to a complete renovation of the Eldorado Convention Center and updates to the Silver Legacy Grand Exposition Hall and Reno Ballroom, THE ROW has a 21,000-sf luxury spa and a TopGolf Swing Suite.
Other resorts in Reno include the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, which offers more than 200,000 sf of flexible meeting space. There are also exciting amenities for meeting and event attendees who are younger at heart, such as Fun Quest, which features more than 40,000 sf of games and attractions, including laser tag and a carnival midway. In addition, the resort’s Grand Adventure Land is ideal for attendees interested in go-cart racing or miniature golf, while the Max Action Arena is ideal for axe throwing and free-roaming virtual reality.
For a more relaxed experience, Peppermill Resort Spa Casino offers 106,000 sf of meeting space. Its award-winning Spa & Salon Toscana is a spa experience housed in an awe-inspiring, three-story, 33,000-sf space that boasts 24 treatment rooms, Northern Nevada’s only Caldarium with indoor pool, a sun deck and a full-service salon. | AC&F |