This is a solid consensus among meeting planners: There is something for everyone in Las Vegas.
“It appeals to the high-end traveler, the culinary connoisseur, those seeking art and cultural experiences, ‘spa critics,’ sunbathers, shoppers, gamblers; those who want to stay up all night and those who want to sleep-in surrounded by luxury,” says Susan Stafford, co-founder of The Event Architects (TEA). There also is no shortage of hotels, interesting meeting spaces, private event venues or culinary options. And meeting planners do not have to exert much effort to find unique venues, menus, entertainment or activities.
For Stafford, Las Vegas has been her “go-to” locale for meetings and events, including professional industry retreats and continuing education events, for years. Stafford has spent her entire professional career in the corporate meetings and events space, including TEA, which specializes in customizing corporate events from large concepts to specific details to create the uniquely perfect business retreat, event, seminar or incentive trip. Stafford is not alone in her appreciation of Las Vegas as it has long been the hub for “all things meetings and events,” Stafford says. “Attendees seem to enjoy semi-frequent trips to Las Vegas and develop their personal list of favorite lounges, shopping outlets, restaurants and casinos.”
Beth Miller, CDS, director of global accounts at ConferenceDirect, a full-service, third-party meeting planning company, has been booking an annual toy industry trade show in Las Vegas since 2013. She also books toy manufacturers and their sales representatives in Las Vegas for a unique event to showcase products for the new year that takes place every December in Las Vegas.
This event uses hotel suites as “meeting spaces” for manufacturers to schedule rotating small meetings with their sales representative over the course of a week. “I’ve booked legal events in Las Vegas, as well as continuing legal education conferences. I’ve also planned the Natural Products Association conference annually for two years in Las Vegas. I just recently booked another large Baby and Child Trade Show in Las Vegas that will take place [this year] at Paris,” Miller says.
With that level of experience within the Las Vegas meetings and events space, Miller recognizes all that Las Vegas has to offer. “It’s an exciting place to be. There’s always something to do, see or eat, flashing lights and lots of action,” Miller says. “There are excellent restaurants and there are so many options to please unique tastes.”
In addition, one key draw of Las Vegas is the level of professional meeting and event experience at the city’s numerous hotels, resorts and venues. As Miller explains, the staff at most properties is quite adept in planning and executing meetings — most importantly, large ones. “There are lots of unique venues for clients to host receptions, as opposed to doing the usual meeting inside a ballroom,” Miller says. “And everything is large enough for most groups, including bars and restaurants, bowling alleys and movie theaters, salons, rooftops, terraces and lots of one-of-a-kind nooks and crannies, and even inside the cabins on a Ferris wheel. It seems like anything and everything can lend itself to becoming an event venue in Las Vegas. Also, the city offers great options and availability for unique décor and entertainment to incorporate into meetings to make an event really special.”
The biggest draws for Brilla Moore’s meeting and event clients who want to come to Las Vegas for meetings are ease of getting to Las Vegas, as McCarran International Airport supports most international and domestic carriers, a wide variety of hotel and resort options in every price range, great service, close proximity of hotels to McCarran International, incredible food from all over the world and plenty of entertainment options to appeal to almost any group.
As vice president of PlannerSource Inc., a boutique company that works with clients for meetings and events all over the world, with meetings from 10 to 1,500 attendees, Moore enjoys the wealth of options when planning a meeting or event in Las Vegas. Based on the large variety of “everything imaginable,” she can meet the needs of all of the attendees, whether they want to see a world-class concert, visit speak-easies, have incredible food experiences, go out into the desert to explore and hike, people watch or try their luck in the casinos. “In Las Vegas, you can experience almost anything that you are willing to pay for,” Moore says.
Cheryl Gentry is founder & CEO of Glow Global Events, a full-service agency she has run since 1998. Her agency delivers high-quality, high-touch event services and solutions for organizations all over the world. Her team handles every aspect of an event — from ideation to execution, including strategic planning, technology, and talent and audience management. Whether the event is in-person, virtual or hybrid, Gentry and her team strive to deliver a flawless experience for clients and attendees alike.
In just the last year, Glow Global Events spearheaded events and digital content for a mix of corporations, nonprofits and professional associations. “In Las Vegas, we’ve worked with several clients in the financial, insurance, and food and beverage industries to plan all-hands conferences, accommodating anywhere from 500 to 3,000 attendees per event,” Gentry says. “Some of our most notable event experiences have included conferences for Allianz Life Insurance at the MGM Grand, Tanqueray at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and Crown Royal at the Palms Casino Resort.”
Gentry says Las Vegas is one of those rare cities that offers so much for both event organizers and attendees. “On the attendee side, the biggest draw is the burst of life all throughout the city. After a day spent indoors at a meeting or workshop, they can see a Cirque du Soleil show, see a singer like Lady Gaga or Adele in residency, feast on some of the country’s finest cuisine or explore the vibrant nightlife scene,” Gentry says. “Attendees can create an entire experience for themselves, on their own terms, once a conference ends.”
For event planners such as Gentry, Las Vegas also is a city where planners can craft unbeatable VIP experiences. Many of the city’s venues, especially the restaurants, house luxurious back rooms and hidden spaces that planners can use to their advantage to ensure “that attendees feel tended to and top-dollar ticket holders get their money’s worth.”
What also makes Las Vegas a huge draw for meetings and events is that the area is constantly evolving — introducing new properties and venues, as well as updating and renovating the city’s long-standing gems. For example, Las Vegas has seen a tremendous amount of new development over the last couple of years, including the opening of three new resort properties, Circa Las Vegas, Virgin Hotels Las Vegas and Resorts World Las Vegas, and more than 2 million sf of meeting and convention space with the addition of the West Hall expansion at the Las Vegas Convention Center, CAESARS FORUM and The Venetian Resort’s Stella Studio.
Station Casinos has long been synonymous with the Las Vegas’ meetings and events industry. Here’s why: Station Casinos offers several different resorts and hotels, some of which include Red Rock Resort, Casino & Spa; Green Valley Ranch Resort, Casino & Spa; Palace Station; Sunset Station; Boulder Station and Santa Fe Station. And the meeting and event offerings are as distinct as the properties themselves. For example, Red Rock Resort Casino & Spa welcomes groups from 10 to 1,500 attendees in its 100,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting spaces.
SAHARA Las Vegas also is unveiling a refreshed, spacious conference space with a new contemporary look for groups of all sizes. In addition, Resorts World and Hilton partnered to bring three of Hilton’s brands together for a $4.3 billion integrated resort. Opened last summer, Resorts World includes a 3,500-room resort, as well as a 5,000-seat state-of-the-art theater, 350,000 sf of meeting and convention space, and a 220,000-sf pool complex.
And while many planners are aware of MGM Resorts International’s robust convention spaces at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino and The Mirage Hotel & Casino, some planners may be unaware that the company also offers a unique, elevated meeting experiences at the Bellagio Resort & Casino, ARIA Resort & Casino, Vdara Hotel & Spa and Park MGM.
Caesars Palace has long been a top option for meetings and events, and the new arrival experience will further welcome attendees, providing an open-air lounge experience they didn’t have space for previously. Also, Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace, the luxury boutique hotel within the iconic Las Vegas resort, introduced 182 redesigned guest rooms and suites after completing a multimillion-dollar refresh. The world’s first Nobu Hotel now features a more modern, residential feel.
And after a recent expansion, Tropicana Las Vegas – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel’s all-new conference facility is divisible into as many as 38 breakout rooms and includes a 25,000-sf ballroom, an expansive Trinidad pavilion featuring 27,000 sf of space ideal for large general sessions and exhibits, and elaborate venues, such as the state-of-the-art Tropicana Theatre.
Las Vegas’s greatest asset, the sheer number of available venues and styles, is also its greatest challenge. As Stafford explains, there is no one “feel” to the town, rather the meeting planner is left to cultivate a thematic experience.
For example, if you are meeting in Memphis, the event will likely have a barbecue flair, while a meeting in Park City, Utah will have a relaxed outdoor feel to it. “Las Vegas meetings can take place in hotels themed as different countries, modern venues, traditional venues and almost everything in between,” Stafford says. “All culinary and cultural options are available. Therefore, the meeting planner must put forth extra effort to curate a cohesive event.”
Miller also recommends meeting planners carefully market to attendees, as there are so many hotel options close to one another and most often close to your meeting venue. “It is very difficult to capture and keep your audience in your room block. Educating your attendees is key, letting them know why it’s so important to book within their group’s room block,” Miller says. “Creativity also is key to make sure attendees are incentivized to stay in the official room block, or the group may experience costly attrition and the meeting networking dynamic will likely change if the group is diluted among various hotels.”
And remember that audio and visual costs are quite expensive in Las Vegas, some planners say, as are labor charges and overall resort fees, so be sure all fees are clearly stated and approved. “Ask a lot of questions and get everything in writing in the contract,” Moore says. “Las Vegas is a bit different in that there are a lot of add-on fees for things that you would not necessarily be charged for at other properties in other cities. If you have a budget that you need to strongly adhere to, know that you can have a great meeting in Las Vegas, but just make sure the budget will stretch to cover everything that you truly want to experience at a meeting or event in Las Vegas.”
There are two recurring critiques that Gentry has heard across multiple events held in Las Vegas. “First, most events take place indoors during the day, denying attendees a chance to take advantage of all the natural sunlight and the city’s many outdoor experiences, like beach and pool parties,” Gentry says. And second, given that many hotels and resorts have casinos in their lobbies, attendees often have to pass through smoking areas to access events. If it can be arranged, it’s important to work with the venue to move these areas off the beaten path, so non-smoking attendees aren’t passing through clouds of smoke to get to meetings or breakouts.
With more than 20 years in the events industry, Desiree Wolfe, owner and meeting planner at Desiree Wolfe Consulting, has worked at full-service event planning and catering companies, large resort hotels, as well as corporate event management for private companies. She is currently working as an event manager for a startup cybersecurity company. Being in Las Vegas for the last 17 years has given Wolfe experience as both the client and the venue when it comes to events. She has been involved in large conventions and corporate events, as well as intimate weddings on and off the Las Vegas Strip.
“When you have a convention and tourist city like Las Vegas, the biggest challenges are going to be timing. We have city-wide conventions that take up thousands of hotel rooms, which often means an increase in prices across the board — from room rates to dinner parties,” Wolfe says. “During these large events, ride shares and taxi fares increase and wait times become even longer. It can be challenging navigating negotiations during peak season as well, because the hotels know they can get higher room rates due to the supply and demand of space.”
Another challenge can be keeping your attendees engaged with so much distraction. If your group likes to party or gamble, it can be tough to make sure they return to your event the next day as it’s easy for people to get caught in the excitement Las Vegas has to offer. “My advice is to consider the off-peak season for events in Las Vegas. You’ll have more negotiating power and options,” Wolfe says. “Don’t be afraid to shop around. The largest resorts don’t always offer the best value. Consider the profile of your attendees and match a location they can enjoy and afford. If you’re not familiar with Las Vegas, reach out to a local hospitality professional or utilize the [Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority] for help.”
When organizing an event in Las Vegas, Stafford has two main tips: First, be sure to book early and include an outdoor option. As a meeting planner, Stafford always makes it a point to keep all of the meeting events within a close, walkable perimeter. “Las Vegas is deceptively large, so while a venue may only be a quarter mile as the crow flies, there might be numerous stairs, bridges or angles involved in getting from point A to point B on foot, and traffic congestion might render the drive far longer than anticipated,” Stafford says. “If you book early enough, it is possible to select a hotel and supporting venues all within easy access of each other.”
Stafford also finds it imperative to offer an outdoor activity at every Las Vegas meeting. While some are happy to stay inside for the entirety of the event, most people want to see the sky and breathe fresh air. Some of Stafford’s most well-received outdoor activities have been a helicopter ride to the floor of the Grand Canyon for a champagne lunch and light hiking in Red Rocks. “The more outdoor-inclined attendees also enjoy kayaking on the Colorado River, although that is a full-day activity,” Stafford says.
One of the most important tips that Gentry can’t stress enough is to research potential event dates. There are a lot of conferences in Las Vegas, and meeting planners considering this location want to ensure that their ideal venue isn’t booked, and that the city won’t be so crowded that all the best attractions are sold out.
Additionally, Gentry says, it’s crucial to keep your client’s goals front and center. “In a city like Las Vegas, it’s easy to get blinded by the glitz. Certain venues have strong name recognition and will get attendees excited,” Gentry says. “But it doesn’t make sense to host a conference at the MGM Grand if it doesn’t meet your space requirements, or if it’s too far away from other conference elements. Think about the attendee experience and the ultimate goals of the event, and then pick an event space that satisfies everyone’s needs.”
Although attendees should have some time to explore the city on their own, meeting planners should pull together at least two nights of planned entertainment in Las Vegas. For example, get everyone tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s The Beatles LOVE one night and Shania Twain on another night. “This ensures that you’re emphasizing the unique appeal of the city and giving attendees a memorable experience,” Gentry says.
And on the logistical side, provide shuttle buses to get attendees from one spot to another — as cab lines are long and are sure to ruin tight timetables — set a realistic budget that takes entertainment costs into consideration, and offer attendees guidelines on proper attire. “Las Vegas is quite warm most of the year, and there’s a lot of walking,” Gentry says. “So comfortable shoes are a must. You’ll have no problem logging 10,000 steps each day.” I&FMM.