As the most popular meeting and convention destination in the U.S., Las Vegas caters to all groups with some of the biggest and most prominent meetings, trade shows and business conferences. The unrivaled amount of meeting space in casino resorts and convention centers, the solid air accessibility from points across North America (and beyond) and the entertainment options make Las Vegas a destination that drives attendance. More than 38 million visitors in 2022 generated a record $79.3 billion.
“We choose Las Vegas every year due to the easy lift for all attendees,” says Mark De La Paz, owner of the full-service meeting-planner Sourcing Power Group. “It’s such a draw for our attendees to pick and choose what they want to do nightly with all that Las Vegas has to offer, Cirque de Soleil shows, music residencies, comedy shows, nightclubs, concerts and the diverse gastronomy. We literally run out of time and can’t even enjoy it all.”
Plus, Las Vegas ceaselessly reinvents itself, and never more than during the months following the worst of the pandemic. Planners who haven’t been to the city since 2020 will find a destination revitalized.
The 1.4 million sf West Hall expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) includes 600,000 sf of exhibition space with 328,000 sf of column-free space — one of the largest such exhibition spaces in North America.
The opening of the Resorts World Las Vegas complex, located within walking distance of the West Hall, represents the first ground-up resort development on the Las Vegas Strip in more than a decade. Resorts World features the Las Vegas Hilton with 1,774 rooms, the Conrad Las Vegas has 1,496 rooms and suites, and Crockfords Las Vegas, LXR Hotels & Resorts, has 236 “ultra-luxury” rooms. The complex includes more than 250,000 sf of flexible meeting and banquet space.
The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino announced a remodel of its 2.1 million sf convention center, involving technology upgrades, dynamic digital signs and a modern, tropical redesign.
The convention center will remain open and operational with upgrades executed in phases. The project is expected to be completed by late 2024.
The Bellagio outlined the details of its renovation within its Spa Tower, delivering accommodations inspired by Italy’s Lake Como and the Alps. The tower, which encompasses 819 rooms and 104 suites, is scheduled for completion in the fall. An initial selection of renovated rooms will be available beginning in July. The facelift follows the resort’s recent remodel of more than 2,500 rooms in its main tower.
Tom Morano, vice president of meetings & conferences at American Financial Services Association (AFSA), says attendees don’t need to leave the property, “Everything is located under one roof. It never gets boring, it’s never the same-old, same-old.”
AFSA held its annual Vehicle Finance Conference & Expo, prior to the NADA Show, there last year, for its 685 attendees.
“We have probably been to Bellagio eight or nine times in 20 years,” Morano says. “The resort attracts great attendance and has been well kept over the years. … Meetings are easy to reach from either elevator tower without needing to walk the casino floor. Ballroom packages come with a complete complement of additional meeting space for smaller committees, boards, staff office and special events.”
Another plus, attendees can dine at several hotel restaurants appealing to different tastes, so there’s no need to hire transportation. Morano says, “Nothing beats Bellagio. We’re lucky to have many grandfathered clauses in our contract. The hotel has allowed us to accommodate specific requests year after year.”
Nearby, Wynn Las Vegas is another Strip icon that has undergone a series of upgrades. Their 430,000 sf meeting and convention expansion opened a few years ago, more than doubling the space at Wynn and Encore. And last year, a new room concept across Wynn Las Vegas and Wynn Tower Suites was completed, offering an extensive redesign to the tower’s 2,674 rooms and suites.
In January, specialty insurance provider, Amwins, hosted its annual Sales and Leadership Conference at Wynn, drawing 1,400 attendees.
Sarah Richardson, vice president of meetings, events and administration at Amwins, says, “My phrase is, ‘no one does it like the Wynn,’ and it holds true. The sales staff is knowledgeable and accommodating and the service staff is friendly, professional and pays close attention to every single detail.”
The recently added South Convention Space is located farther away from rooms, but Richardson says, “It is worth the walk through the resort. Once you are there, all the meeting rooms are very close together between two levels.”
Richardson also had good things to say about Wynn’s catering. “We hosted a seated, three-course dinner for the full 1,400 attendees, and the execution and meal itself was as close to perfection as you can get,” she says. “Our attendees were blown away.”
Amwins’ opening reception was held at Wynn’s XS Nightclub, occupying the venue’s inside and outside space, but the January desert night was chilly. She says space heaters were added, but next time, it will only be held inside.
Another issue came up that Wynn’s staff handled well: Two nursing mothers were attending. “Wynn helped us turn their green room into a “mother’s room” for our attendees to use while in the convention space for meetings,” she says. “Our moms were very appreciative and made their working-mom balancing-act a little bit easier.”
One of the destination’s biggest developments set to open this year will be the 67-story Fontainebleau Las Vegas. The 25-acre property neighboring the Las Vegas Convention Center’s West Hall had its groundbreaking in 2007. But in 2009, when the building was about 75% complete, the global downturn halted construction.
In 2021, Fontainebleau Development and Koch Real Estate Investments returned to complete the idled project with a $2.2-billion loan. With more than 550,000 sf of customizable indoor- and outdoor-space across five levels, including a 105,000 sf pillar-less ballroom, the 3,644-room Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer meeting planners many configurations and some of the most advanced digital amenities in the market.
Nicole Ellickson, director of conferences & meetings experiences for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), says Las Vegas is a regular destination for the association’s roster of continuing education events and conferences.
“There’s nothing you can’t find there, and whether they want to be at the pool, or shopping, or enjoy high-end dining, there is always something for everyone,” Ellickson says. “We can count on having some of our biggest attendance numbers in Las Vegas, so we put it in the rotation every three years, especially if we need to see an increase in the numbers.”
Ellickson says CUNA turns to Caesars Palace for its events several times a year, as well as other Strip properties. Last fall, CUNA hosted its Operations & Member Experience Council and the Technology Council Conference at Caesars Palace, bringing 600 attendees to explore trending topics. “We wanted to do something unique, so we did a reception in a sectioned-off buyout of one of the casino floors at Caesars,” Ellickson says.
CUNA also booked its World-Class Service Leadership School, which will return this year. Ellickson says, “They had experiences like a scavenger hunt each day, all focused on world-class service, with a facilitator showing how credit unions can find ways to bring service ideas together.”
She jokes that CUNA can be a “space hog,” and that many destinations cannot justify the group’s room block for its meeting space. But in Las Vegas, space is rarely an issue. “Caesars has the space we need for each and every event; they have the layout and the size we need,” Ellickson says. “The Las Vegas properties are massive, and at most, the meeting spaces are always so far away, and [some] of them you have to walk through a smoky casino. For most events, our demographic is 50 years and up. They’re not into running up and down the stairs, or through a cloud of smoke. So we try to pick hotels where we can be in one tower, and at Caesars, the elevator drops right down to the meeting space.”
“I never hear complaints about airlift,” Ellickson says. “You can get in or out 24-7 and access to the Strip is easy. In a lot of cities, you have a 30-to 40-minute drive from the airport, but in Vegas the Strip is 10 minutes away.”
Some planners may think of Las Vegas as being expensive, but there are options for every budget. “Las Vegas provides some of most reasonable room rates, and there’s either a restaurant or something to do for everyone,” Ellickson says. “For anyone who hasn’t planned a meeting in Vegas before, take a risk and try it. It’s always such a big draw.”
Still new after its mid-pandemic debut, CAESARS FORUM is a LEED-Silver certified conference center built to accommodate more than 10,000 attendees. To achieve such certification, a building must earn a certain number of points in categories such as energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor-air quality and sustainable materials.
The facility, located under the landmark High Roller observation wheel, has over 300,000 sf of flexible meeting space and features large, pillar-less ballrooms. Outdoor events can be easy with its adjacent 100,000 sf plaza.
“Meetings in Las Vegas are amazing,” De La Paz says. “Depending on your client’s budget you can do a simple setup that will be great for the attendees or you can take a sky’s-the-limit approach and it will blow your mind with AV and décor. Las Vegas is so impressive in this area that it’s hard to compete with them.”
Sourcing Power Group oversees the annual Craig Wiggins Coaching & Consulting seminar, which brings 750 attendees to The Venetian Resort Las Vegas each September.
“We’ve partnered with The Venetian Resort for our past five events due to their rooms all being suites,” De La Paz says. “All of the employees are topnotch. They really go above and beyond to help as much as they can.”
De La Paz continues: “The team on-property is the most important aspect for any client’s meeting or conference, and the team at the Venetian is amazing to work with. They make me look great as a planner when my client asks for last-minute room-drops or reservations at the toughest restaurants. This is where they stand out in my book.”
Another of this year’s anticipated openings is the MSG Sphere at The Venetian Resort, built by the Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corporation, an entertainment venue that will hold up to 20,000 people. Featuring a 160,000-sf display that surrounds the audience, including the world’s highest resolution LED screen, the venue is scheduled to open later this year.
“This will be Vegas’ game-changer,” De La Paz says. “It will host the best of the best in shows and music and it is accessed through an air-conditioned walkway connected to the Venetian’s meeting and convention space.” I&FMM