Las Vegas continues to reign as one of the world’s top meetings destinations, with a staggering 150,000 guest rooms and 14 million sf of meetings space. But the key to the city’s success is that it constantly reinvents itself, thereby offering new experiences to groups, even during challenging times such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Each time attendees return to the destination, even if their events are annual, their experience is completely different each time,” says Stephanie Glanzer, CMP, senior vice president and chief of sales for MGM Resorts International. “They might discover a hot new restaurant, a new show, a new attraction or even entirely remodeled rooms.” Glanzer notes that during the past 20 months, MGM has debuted a wide variety of new experiences, from completely remodeled guest rooms at Bellagio Resort & Casino, and Luxor Hotel and Casino, to new restaurants and nightlife venues. “Additionally, the level of service guests and attendees will find in Las Vegas is unparalleled to anything else in the travel industry. We know that, for all these reasons, attendance is generally very high when events take place in Las Vegas, and we see the attendees returning year after year,” she says.
Caesars Entertainment has also been busy enhancing and expanding its offerings, including a multimillion-dollar refresh of Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace, says Reina Herschdorfer, director of marketing, national meetings and events for Caesars Entertainment. Like Glanzer, she also lauds Las Vegas as a meetings destination. “With more than 300 days of sunshine per year and hundreds of flights from all over the world, Las Vegas is easily accessible by attendees from everywhere,” she says. “In addition to providing wonderful hotel options across the city, the quality of amenities that are available is unsurpassed. Accommodating a large or small group and not having to use multiple properties provides a multitude of advantages, from saving time to keeping all attendees in one place. The celebrity chef restaurants and high-design experiences are highly valued by attendees.”
Owned and operated by Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA), the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) is one of the busiest facilities in the world. For the past 26 consecutive years, it has been the top trade-show destination in North America, according to the Trade Show News Network, the world’s leading resource for the trade show, exhibition and events industry.
Since in-person meetings generally resumed early last summer, Las Vegas has hosted an estimated 2.2 million convention attendees. During this time, the LVCC has hosted approximately 60 trade shows and events with more than 800,000 attendees. This included trade shows such as World of Concrete, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and SEMA, the automotive trade show that attracted more than 100,000 participants.
“Few facilities are able to accommodate the SEMA show, which can attract upward of 160,000 individuals,” says Tom Gattuso, vice president of events. “With 4.6 million sf of convention space and an additional 2 million sf of outdoor space, the facility is conducive to interactive attractions, educational seminars and meetings, as well as after-hours receptions. It also features modern amenities and transportation options, resulting in a superior attendee experience. Feedback from post-show surveys reveal that exhibitors and attendees are overwhelmingly pleased with the show, and we’re confident that the LVCC’s world-class facility is one piece of the puzzle that makes our event shine about all others.”
Gattuso says SEMA was especially pleased when the convention center announced several years ago that it was going to expand and upgrade amenities throughout the facility. “It is on the cutting edge, with state-of-the-art features,” he says. “But it doesn’t stop there. The LVCVA maintains commitments to all facets of the show, from set up and tear down to food and beverage, to signage and drainage, and even hotel accommodations. It handles everything in a first-class manner.”
Heralding the return of in-person meetings and events, LVCC opened its $1 billion West Hall last summer. Featuring a contemporary design and an abundance of natural light, the hall comprises 1.4 million sf of state-of-the-art meeting space. That same month saw the debut of the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop, which was created by Elon Musk’s The Boring Company and is the first transportation center of its kind for a convention center. Gattuso says the Vegas Loop “was a big hit” with SEMA show attendees.
“The bi-directional underground tunnel allows up to 4,400 convention attendees per hour to be transported across the sprawling campus in all-electric Tesla vehicles in just under two minutes, free of charge,” says Brian Yost, chief operating officer for the LVCVA.
Plans are underway to expand the convention center loop throughout the entire destination. “The express, underground transportation solution will be known as the Vegas Loop, and will help ease traffic congestion and offer visitors convenient access to world-class resorts and entertainment,” Yost says. The Vegas Loop has 51 planned stations throughout the Las Vegas Strip and Clark County. “The system is also anticipated to connect to locations in the city of Las Vegas and eventually to the airport, moving visitors around our exciting destination in a quick and entertaining way.” Yost says that plans are also being made for the renovation of the LVCC campus, with work expected to begin in a few years.
The LVCC also was the first facility in Nevada to be awarded the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s (GBAC) STAR accreditation, the gold standard for clean facilities. Yost says that the health and safety of organizers, exhibitors and attendees remains the LVCC’s top priority. “While regulatory restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID certainly impacted all facilities in this destination, today, Las Vegas is moving business forward while continuing to implement world-class health and safety standards at the LVCC facility and throughout the entire destination,” he says. “We also continue to support additional health and safety protocols our trade-show organizers choose to put in place for their shows.”
More than 45 shows with 5,000 or more attendees already are booked at LVCC for the remainder of the year. “And our sales team continues to book new business for this year and beyond, showcasing confidence by trade-show organizers that meetings can be held safely and efficiently, and their commitment to doing business in Las Vegas.”
MGM offers a whopping 13 resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, totaling 4 million sf of meeting space. “One of the most appealing elements of MGM Resorts in Las Vegas is the sheer amount of options available for meetings and events of all sizes,” Glanzer says. “While many planners are aware of our robust convention spaces at Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand and The Mirage, many may not know we offer a seamless luxury experience at Bellagio, ARIA, Vdara and Park MGM that provides a convenient way to build out dynamic, creative programming across multiple resorts.” She continues, “This Luxury Meeting District is particularly attractive to our smaller and mid-size corporate groups, which make up a large part of our business. Additionally, we make it convenient for our meeting planners to take advantage of our entire portfolio by streamlining points of contact, contracting and billing, so they spend more time focusing on creating their events and less time dealing with the paperwork.”
MGM properties have hosted hundreds of meetings and events during the pandemic, ranging from small corporate gatherings to large trade shows with thousands of attendees. “As we continue to welcome groups back to Las Vegas, we want them to feel confident that their health and safety is our top priority,” Glanzer says. “Throughout the last 20 months, we have created and continue to update our Convene with Confidence program, which allows groups a convenient way to customize their events with the health and safety components that make the most sense for their attendees. This could mean anything from on-site testing and vaccine-status checks, to creative solutions for room set-ups and dining arrangements. We’ve created a robust template that allows planners to easily customize their events and ensure that all attendees feel confident getting back to meeting in person.”
During the pandemic, MGM also implemented a significant digital transformation that provides more convenient options for how guests and attendees experience its resorts. This includes fully mobile check-in, digital queues at restaurants and pools to avoid lines, and mobile ordering at the pool. “All of these allow guests to customize their experience with how much or how little interaction they want to have with our employees and other guests,” Glanzer says. “These are all permanent improvements and additions that will remain and evolve well into the future.”
Within the past 20 months, MGM has also refreshed all 2,568 guest rooms in the Bellagio’s main tower, with new designs inspired by the movement of water, beauty of nature and vibrant reflections of light seen at sunrise and sunset. The rooms feature a luxurious, oversized shower, dual sinks, a built-in closet and an activity table. MGM has also renovated Luxor’s 1,715 standard rooms. Inspired by Moroccan and North African cultures, these new Pyramid King and Pyramid Queen guest rooms feature bold splashes of orange and blue, with brilliant gold accents.
MGM also has added enticing restaurants. From Taipei to Los Angeles, Din Tai Fung has established itself as a go-to dining destination for steamed dumplings and noodles. Renowned especially for its Xiao Long Bao, including the famed Shanghai-style soup dumplings filled with Kurobuta pork, it now has opened a restaurant at ARIA Resort & Casino. The new Mayfair Supper Club at Bellagio is a modern take on a classic American restaurant highlighting design, dining and entertainment. It’s open every day, and on Friday and Saturday nights, it converts to an up-tempo lounge with elevated food and cocktail presentations, combined with the world-famous Bellagio fountains as a backdrop.
“We are always adding new amenities and venues into our mix, and encourage our partners to take full advantage of the entire portfolio and offer attendees events and experiences they can’t get anywhere else,” Glanzer says. She says that groups are becoming increasingly more creative about how they utilize MGM’s venues and events spaces, and maximize the resorts’ proximity to one another.
Looking to the remainder of 2022 and into 2023, Glanzer is optimistic about the demand for group business. “Bookings are back on pace with pre-pandemic levels, and we’re seeing groups more excited than ever to get back to doing business in person,” she says.
Boasting nine Las Vegas resorts and hotels, as well as a celebrated new conference center, Caesars Entertainment has more than 1 million sf of meeting space, 20,000 guest rooms and more than 100 restaurants, cafes and lounges in the city. Its best known property is Caesars Palace, which was founded in 1966 by Jay Sarno and Stanley Mallin, who wanted to create an opulent facility that gave guests a sense of life during the Roman Empire. It contains many statues, columns and iconography typical of Hollywood Roman period productions, including a 20-foot-tall statue of Augustus Caesar near the entrance.
“Caesars Entertainment has something for everyone, including the luxurious and iconic Caesars Palace, with more than 300,000 sf of conference space and 3,960 guest rooms, and a new lobby and porte-cochere,” Herschdorfer says. “It’s famous for being the setting of several award-winning movies, including ‘Rain Man,’ ‘The Hangover’ and ‘The Big Short.’ For dining, there’s no better place, with its celebrity chefs — Bobby Flay’s Amalfi, Michael Chow’s Mr. Chow, Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and Brioche by Guy Savoy. Caesars Palace is also known for its personalized VIP service, with many long-term conferences, including the Trauma and Critical Care & Acute Care Surgery Conference, which recently celebrated more than 50 years at Caesars Palace.”
Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace, a luxury boutique hotel within the property, has unveiled its 182 redesigned guest rooms and suites, part of the multimillion-dollar refresh. The rooms now feature a more modern, residential feel, inspired by kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold epoxy. Also, the redesigned guest corridors feature a custom carpet with rippling forms, suggesting a pond of koi fish that cluster at each guest room door, as well as patterns inspired by suminagashi, the Japanese art of paper marbling. Two culinary offerings are also scheduled to open at Caesars Palace. Dominique Ansel Las Vegas, a bakery from the James Beard Award-winning pastry chef, is planned for this summer. It will feature one of his unique creations, the cronut, often described as a croissant-doughnut hybrid. Peter Luger Steak House, offering the same menu and ambiance that made it arguably New York City’s finest steak house, is slated to open at the end of the year.
Caesars Entertainment expanded its offerings in a big way in October 2020 by opening CAESARS FORUM conference center, with more than 300,000 sf of meeting space, including the two largest pillar-less ballrooms in the world. CAESARS FORUM is connected to more than 8,500 guest rooms at three Caesars properties — Harrah’s Las Vegas and The Linq and Flamingo hotels. “We are especially excited about the outdoor Forum Plaza, with more than 100,000 sf located at the foot of the High Roller and east of Linq Promenade. It’s an entertainment, restaurant and shopping experience,” Herschdorfer says. “CAESARS FORUM has been well-received by planners and attendees. It’s biophilic design is especially appreciated, with its residential feel and environment conducive to stronger networking and learning.”
Paris Las Vegas, another Caesars Entertainment property, has also been attracting attention with three new restaurants. Restaurateur, philanthropist and television star Lisa Vanderpump recently opened Vanderpump à Paris at the property. Like her very successful Vanderpump Cocktail Garden at Caesars Palace, this new offering features delectable dishes, whimsical and unique cocktails, and a lush, elaborate atmosphere with eclectic, Parisian-inspired design. Opening soon, Nobu at Paris Las Vegas will offer a Japanese-inspired menu featuring Asian and Japanese fish, imported seafood and exotic delicacies. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options will also be available.
Also opening at the property soon, Bedford by Martha Stewart will feature a concept designed to bring Stewart’s famed country farmhouse in Bedford, New York, to life. It’s her first venture into the restaurant business, and will offer the same kinds of foods that she offers her friends and family. Signature menu items will be created by sourcing seasonal, high-quality ingredients from local purveyors and some of Stewart’s favorites, including Las Vegas Farmers Market, Dartagnan Inc., Urbani Truffles, Roe Caviar, Jaspar Hill Farm, Frog Hollow Farm and Vermont Creamery.
Herschdorfer says that business is on the upswing at Caesars Entertainment’s Las Vegas properties. “2022 will be a strong year for Caesars Entertainment, especially in Las Vegas,” she says. “2023 is looking strong, as well. There is pent-up demand, and Las Vegas is on the way back to 2019 levels.”
This property, which opened in December 2020, features an adults-only atmosphere and an old-school Las Vegas ambiance, complete with the iconic Vegas Vickie neon sign. Featuring 35 floors and 1.2 million sf, it’s the first hotel/casino since 1980 to be built from the ground up in the downtown area. It provides 777 guest rooms, 21,654 sf of meetings space, five restaurants, a two-story casino, a three-story sports book and a 24-hour fitness center.
It also includes a six-tiered swimming pool area, Stadium Swim, which has six pools, swim-up bars, cabanas, chaise lounges and daybeds spread across three cascading levels, enabling more than 4,000 people to view a 40-foot-by-143-foot high-definition screen that broadcasts a wide variety of entertainment. The five dining options include chef Dan Coughlin’s innovative take on Pan-Asian cuisine at 8 East, as well as Barry’s, a classic steakhouse blending old-school style with a modern twist.
Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, finally realized his wish to own a Las Vegas casino when Virgin Hotels and a group of investment companies purchased the Hard Rock Hotel for $500 million in March 2018. The Hard Rock closed on February 2020, to allow for a $200 million renovation, and emerged as Virgin Hotels Las Vegas early last spring. The hotel includes 1,504 rooms and Mohegan Sun Casino, which is operated by Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, an affiliate of the Mohegan Tribe.
Virgin Hotels Las Vegas has 1,504 “chambers,” divided into three separate towers — Canyon, Ruby and Opal, and 60,000 sf of meeting space, including a 29,374-sf theater, the 15,720-sf Primrose Hall and 4,550-sf Twenty-Four Oxford. Dining options include Casa Calavera, offering traditional Mexican cuisine; Kassi Beach House, serving authentic coastal Italian dishes; and The Kitchen at Commons Club, with contemporary American cuisine along with a nod to British roots.
A luxury resort, casino and hotel, Wynn Las Vegas offers 2,716 guest rooms and is connected to Encore Las Vegas, with 2,034 guest rooms and suites. In February 2020, the two properties announced the completion of their meeting and convention space expansion, which added 300,000 sf. Wynn and Encore now offer group event clients 560,000 sf of flexible space.
New features added by the project included a 20,000-sf outdoor pavilion with an adjacent 20,000-sf lawn, a luxury 2,500-sf hospitality lounge featuring a state-of-the-art 72-foot-by-9-foot LED video wall and an 83,000-sf pillar-less ballroom, the largest at the resort and one of the largest in Las Vegas. The expansion project also provided sweeping views of the resort’s 18-hole championship golf course and included Wynn’s signature indoor-outdoor design approach, innovative sustainability programs, lush landscaping and gourmet catering. Dining options at the properties include Casa Playa, executive chef Sarah Thompson’s distinctive spin on authentic Mexican coastal cuisine, and Cipriani, featuring signature Italian dishes such as the original carpaccio alla Cipriani, vanilla meringue and the iconic Bellini.
Looking to “revolutionize the meeting and convention experience” in Las Vegas, Fontainebleau Las Vegas is set to debut late next year. Officials are touting its location close to the LVCC’s West Hall expansion, saying in a news release that it “provides unprecedented access and synergistic opportunity for meeting and convention planners.”
The 67-story, vertically integrated luxury destination conceived by Fontainebleau Development will offer more than 550,000 sf of customizable indoor and outdoor meeting and convention space, with countless configurations throughout five levels of the resort, allowing experiences to be tailored to every preference, according to the release. Highlights include a 105,000-sf, pillar-less ballroom – one of the largest in Las Vegas; a three-level, more than 90,000-sf theater with generous pre-function space capable of hosting everything from business functions to entertainment; nearly 62,000 sf of additional space that can be used to create up to 57 breakout rooms and three executive boardrooms overlooking a nearly 26,000-sf outdoor hospitality garden.
The venue will also offer state-of-the-art technology, including the most advanced digital amenities throughout its conference spaces, with multiple interior and exterior branding opportunities, touchscreen technologies, and next-level audio and visual tools supported by dedicated and experienced in-house experts. The resort’s vertical design will allow attendees to reach conference levels without navigating the casino. Resort elevators and escalators will also provide a smooth transition from business to pleasure, connecting attendees to Fontainebleau’s dining, retail, pool and entertainment venues. C&IT