Although this glittering desert city may have been built on the vices of gambling and sin, in this day and age, it’s as if Las Vegas was tailor-made for meetings and events.
After all, what other U.S. city can claim more than 150,000 hotel rooms and 10.6 million square feet of meetings and convention space? And with a wide variety of world-class hotels, top-tier convention venues, a hospitality culture that lives and breathes group business, and a veritable banquet of dining, shopping, and entertainment options, Las Vegas is like no other meetings and travel destination on the globe.
“Las Vegas just offers incredible value, both for leisure travelers and meeting attendees and organizers,” says Amy Allen, director of marketing for Caesars Entertainment. “There’s easy access, tons of hotel rooms, and competitive rates throughout the year; great weather, world-class dining, shopping, entertainment, lots to see and do, and all for every budget and taste. For meeting planners, those things, coupled with the fact that we do so many meetings and events here and know how to service large and small groups, make their job easier and makes it easier for them to be successful.”
Although the past few years haven’t been a picnic for the premier gaming, entertainment, and convention destination, Las Vegas has witnessed a slow but steady tourism and convention business comeback. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the city expects to welcome 40 million leisure and business visitors in 2012. Last year, Sin City hosted more than 19,000 meetings and conventions and attracted 38.9 million visitors, the city’s second-highest historical visitors.
And promoting its brand as an affordable, value-added business and leisure destination rather than one of hedonism or excess has been one marketing tactic that has paid off, says Chris Meyer, vice president of sales at the Las Vegas CVA.
“It’s all about our brand,” says Meyer. “No one does leisure like Las Vegas, and more business travelers realize that no one does business as we can. Some of the success stories coming out of Las Vegas point to one of the LVCVA’s slogans, ‘Vegas Means Business,’ and that’s what we’ve been saying all along. Meeting planners see their attendance go up 13 percent when they rotate into Las Vegas and they see a 7 percent drop when they leave Las Vegas. There is no other place that delivers results as Las Vegas does.”
The building boom that once permeated the Las Vegas Strip has been on ice since the economic downturn, but that hasn’t stopped the city’s hospitality community from investing its dollars in property and guest room upgrades and renovations to continue attracting heads to beds. Besides cosmetic improvements, many Las Vegas resorts have also seen the return in offering meetings and event planners as much bang for their buck as possible while helping them reiterate what the meetings and convention industry has always known to be true—the incredible value of face-to-face.
So as Sin City gradually rebounds from economic hardships, it remains a destination with opportunities for meeting planners, with many resorts continuing to offer great value and flexibility in the form of dates, rates, and space.
“No one invests more into the meetings experience than Las Vegas does,” says Richard Harper, executive vice president of sales and marketing for MGM Resorts International. “The excitement, the options, the enhanced flexibility, and the accessibility are all key drivers that our customers look for. We offer more options than anywhere else, allowing customers to have a unique experience every time they come back. There is never the same old, same old here.”
Events of all shapes and sizes won’t have any problem finding a convergence point on or off the Strip. From the sprawling, 3.2 million-sq.-ft. Las Vegas Convention Center and the 2.25 million-sq.-ft. Las Vegas Sands MegaCenter to the 1.8 million-sq.-ft. Mandalay Bay Convention Center, significant events can enjoy plenty of elbow room. At the same time, almost all more substantial hotel properties have their fair share of convention spaces suitable for smaller to mid-sized events.
Outside the convention or meeting, groups will stay occupied and entertained in Las Vegas, admiring the exotic wildlife at Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage, eyeballing the sharks and other aquatic predators at the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino; oohing and ahhing at the dancing waterfalls at The Bellagio; enjoying a little retail therapy or just hanging out by the hotel pool.
And for those visitors who seek a respite from the hustle-bustle of the hotels, casinos, and the Strip, the Las Vegas valley provides an exciting variety of natural attractions and outdoor adventures.
Visits to Red Rock Canyon, Lake Mead, and Mount Charleston Recreation Area all make great day-trip excursions, including hiking, horseback riding, cycling, picnicking, and sightseeing, depending on the time of year.
With such a plentiful and diverse array of hotel, dining, retail, entertainment, and meeting space offerings, it’s clear why Las Vegas maintains its regal status as a premier meeting and trade show destination.
“Las Vegas makes good logistical sense, from airlift to airport proximity, wealth of space, food quality, and higher levels of service,” says Jenna Paseka, director of critical accounts at JNR Incorporated. “The limitless space, rooms, abundant dining, and activity options make it a destination we feel confident recommending to clients year after year. You can jump in a helicopter, dine at Michelin-star restaurants, and gather your group in a 100,000-sq.-ft. Pillarless ballroom and even go to the beach—all while being in the desert—make it a meeting planner’s playground for creativity.”