Whether you’re planning a meeting for 10 or 20, a trade show or a gathering of 2,000 or more, the Entertainment Capital of the World wants to make you a winner (even if your group never sets foot in a casino).
"Vegas means business” is more than just a snappy tagline. It’s also a verifiable fact. Las Vegas is the No. 1 trade show destination in America. According to Trade Show News Network, the glittery city in the Nevada desert has held that crown for the last 23 years, welcoming 57 of the 250 largest shows and marking a record-breaking 6.3 million delegates to the destination.
“Las Vegas is committed to providing the best possible venues, service and experience for trade shows and meetings, and being named the country’s No. 1 destination for a 23rd year in a row is an honor,” says Rossi Ralenkotter, president/CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). “We are determined to maintain this distinction through our commitment to always staying ahead of the competition and listening to our customers.”
Jennifer Yaghmour, the business-development manager for a pharmaceutical compounding company, has planned more than two dozen events in Las Vegas over the past five years. Two big factors draw her here: ease and enthusiasm. “Whether the meeting is small or large, Vegas can accomplish it all,” she says. “There’s so much to do for your clients. If they’re foodies there are the most amazing restaurants available. Or, maybe they enjoy watching a show, sitting by the pool, shopping, gambling or living it up in a nightclub; there’s something for every adult. It’s an easy location to get client buy-in, and many also take the opportunity to bring along their friends or family.”
Cost is another plus; Vegas is often more affordable than other major cities that have large convention centers. “When it comes to negotiating pricing for hotels and convention center space,” Yaghmour says, “Vegas is eager to be accommodating; they want to do business with you. But while the pricing is reasonable, the service is remarkable.”
If many of your attendees are Californiabased, it’s a quick and easy trip to Vegas. In 2016, 27 percent of all the visitors to Las Vegas in 2016 came from Southern California, according to a comprehensive study done for the LVCVA; 95 percent took ground transportation to get there, driving an average of 4.5 hours.
Flying in to McCarran International Airport (LAS) from any spot in California (or elsewhere, really) is even easier than driving, with flights from most major Golden State cities lasting only about an hour. Overall, 28 airlines serve McCarran, with 1,483 daily flights coming and going, so getting your key players into town is a snap. And with plenty of taxis, Uber, Lyft and limousine services, transportation from the airport is also painless, especially since the Las Vegas Convention C Strip is half that distance.
Getting around once in town is simple, too, especially if the meeting hotel is along the Las Vegas Monorail system, which whisks riders quickly along the Strip from the northernmost SLS/W Hotel complex to the southernmost MGM Grand Hotel, with five other stops along the way (including the convention center). For $5 a ride or $12 for an all-day pass, visitors never have to stand in long taxi lines or pay Uber surge rates.
When it comes to accommodations, Las Vegas has a mind-boggling number of choices for meeting planners, with almost 160 hotels, 119 motels and nearly 150,000 rooms, the most of any destination in the United States.
“The unique diversity of hotels offers the opportunity for meetings of all sizes,” says Sandy Reynolds, CMP, the president of Meetings & Events USA, whose Illinois-based company has been planning events in Las Vegas for various clients for over 20 years. “There are options if you need more costeffective room rates and high-end options as well. The fact that you can find every price point imaginable in Vegas is a real plus.”
Many hotels have sprawling meeting space, and Las Vegas has a number of massive convention centers as well. From the over 2,000,000-square-foot, centrally located Las Vegas Convention Center, to the equally large Mandalay Bay Convention Center on the south end of the Strip and the 125,000-square-foot Cashman Center in Downtown Vegas, there are endless possibilities for creating a unique event. That’s why major conventions including the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW) return to Vegas every year, each attracting more than 100,000 attendees. And of course, since 2011, IMEX America has brought thousands of planners and suppliers together every October, meeting in the Sands Expo Center (which has over 2 million square feet of exhibition space) in The Venetian/The Palazzo resort. That event returns Oct. 10-12, 2017.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT HOTEL
With so many different possibilities of hotel experiences in Las Vegas, deciding on the one that suits your group’s needs can be something of a challenge. Reynolds says she begins by assessing both the size and the goals of each group. “If it’s a large meeting with specific meeting space needs, then the convention hotels would be appropriate,” she says. “If it is a smaller meeting then we’ll opt for one of the city’s boutique hotels. Sometimes we specifically want a casino and sometimes we don’t. But even if we choose a smaller property that doesn’t have its own casino, there’s always one nearby for attendees who want to play.”
Some of the largest hotels anywhere can be found on the Strip, with the biggest—the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino—ranking as the second largest hotel complex in the world, with 5,044 rooms and suites. Other massive choices include the Luxor Hotel and Casino (4,400 rooms), The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino (4,027 rooms) and Aria Resort & Casino at the CityCenter (4,004 rooms). In all, Vegas is home to 15 of the 20 largest hotels in the world, all within about a 4-mile line.
Other classic large casino hotels include Caesar’s Palace, The Wynn and Encore, Excalibur Hotel and Casino, Mandalay Bay, Bellagio Hotel and Casino, The Mirage, The Tropicana, Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, The Flamingo, The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Treasure Island, Paris Las Vegas, New York, New York, the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino and Circus Circus.
Newer to the buzzing Strip scene are The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lucky Dragon, The Linq, the SLS Las Vegas and The Cromwell. They all have casinos as well, unlike the nongaming hotels that began springing up in Vegas back in the early 2000s. These properties include the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas; Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas; Delano, Las Vegas; Vdara at CityCenter; The Signature at MGM Grand; Westin Las Vegas Hotel & Spa; and the most recent addition to the category, W Las Vegas.
W Las Vegas is a good example of one end of the spectrum, a less typically Vegas property, as Mark Eberwein, the hotel’s general manager, explains.
“We have 15,000 square feet of meeting space here; and we also have access next door to the SLS Hotel’s restaurants and amenities, which is extraordinary. But what also separates us is we’re nongaming, we’re nonsmoking, and we’re only 289 rooms,” he says. “So if you have a group of, say, 250 people or smaller and you go into one of the mega-resorts here, you get lost. And you’re not important. Here, you’ve bought out the entire hotel. Not only are you important, you have my greatest attention.”
“Here you can have all the fun and energy that is Las Vegas, but also have a productive meeting,” Eberwein continues. “It really is about the meetings first, but still with the possibility of taking advantage of all the amazing amenities that Las Vegas has to offer. You don’t lose your attendees, either, whereas in other, bigger resorts, you may never actually see them.”
Meeting planner Yaghmour agrees. “I host small to medium meetings and I’m looking for great service, not too big of a venue where you need a map to navigate around, and clean, classy, luxurious space that makes you feel comfortable. W Las Vegas provides that. You walk into a smoke-free environment with no long check-in lines. The casino at the SLS Las Vegas is just steps away if guests want that to be part of their experience. More important, the meeting space is easy to find, and they provide great service, like accommodating all dietary needs. There’s a great little lobby bar with great music where guests can meet and keep networking in a pleasing ambiance. For me, it’s the ideal Vegas experience.”
If your group is larger than 250 but you’d still like to avoid a casino-driven hotel, the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas has 424 rooms, 28,300 square feet of meeting space and a 10,080-square-foot ballroom in what they call an “elegant, distraction-free event space.” Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, (392 rooms) offers “Mindful Meetings,” with add-ons to a typical meeting session in one of its five stateof-the-art rooms (12,000 square feet in total) including wellness activities like guided yoga sessions and meditation.
DINING, NEON, GOLF AND MORE
Over the last three decades years, Las Vegas has transformed itself into one of the world’s greatest culinary, entertainment and sporting centers. You can book a private table or do a buyout at one of the city’s many Michelinstarred eateries like Jöel Robuchon, Guy Savoy, Picasso or Daniel Boulud Brasserie. Or embrace the quirky and have a private party at The Mob Museum, surrounded by the history of organized crime in Las Vegas, or perhaps at The Neon Museum, where huge classic signs light up the bash.
Planners will find numerous on-property options for group activities at hotels across the Strip, with VIP sections of hot clubs like Tao at The Venetian, Tryst at the Wynn or Pure in Caesars Palace available for rental. There are private cabanas or bungalows to take over in the midst of outrageous pool parties at Wet Republic at the MGM Grand, Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan or Drai’s BeachClub at The Cromwell; or for a slightly less raucous and more artistic tone to a group excursion, purchase block seats to one of the many imaginative Cirque du Soleil permanent shows inside Strip hotels, including “O” at the Bellagio, “Mystere” at Treasure Island and “The Beatles: LOVE” at The Mirage.
Las Vegas offers an abundance of bigname stars to choose among for a night out on the town. Music residencies began here when Elvis Presley packed in the crowds in the 1970s; these days, the performers are equally world-renowned, from Elton John and Celine Dion to Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey. Many come to The Colosseum theater at Caesars Palace, Axis at Planet Hollywood or, not surprisingly, House of Blues at Mandalay Bay.
Golf is also a star in Vegas, with many topnotch courses. You’ll want to skip the 18-hole outing during the blazing heat of the summer. But a best-ball tournament, which allows group members of different skill levels to enjoy being on the greens, can be a pleasurable teambuilding experience for all.
Within the confines of the Strip, you’ll find the Wynn Golf Club, a Steve Wynn-Tom Fazio-designed 18-hole course that is the only one attached to a resort in the heart of the city. If your group is booked at the Wynn, golfers staying at the resort receive complimentary rentals of Callaway clubs and Foot Joy shoes; if not, tee times are still available to your group.
For a VIP golfing experience, consider traveling just a bit out of the city. Fifteen miles north of the strip is Shadow Creek, a dramatic 18-hole course with the Tom Fazio stamp, that was once a very exclusive private club and is ranked 26 on Golf Digest’s America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses of 2017-18. Registering as a guest at any of the MGM Resorts International resorts in town (including the MGM Grand, Bellagio, ARIA, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Delano and Circus Circus) allows access to play, complete with a limo ride out to the course.
Other well-loved desert golf courses in the area include Cascata, a Rees Jones-designed beauty about 30 minutes south of the Strip. Cascata offers guests staying at Caesars Entertainment resorts in town (Caesars Palace, Bally’s, Harrah’s, The Cromwell, The Linq, Paris Las Vegas, Flamingo, and Rio All-Suite Hotel) preferred rates and priority tee times, as well as special event accommodations. Nearby renowned sister course to Cascata is Rio Secco, another Rees Jones design, which is currently being renovated and due to reopen in October 2017.
SCENIC VEGAS: NATURE ABOUNDS
Vegas may have neon and flash aplenty, but there is also abundant natural beauty nearby. Several venues are set amid this spectacular landscape. The 800-room Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa is located about 20 minutes west of the Strip and a couple miles from the incredible Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It has nearly 100,000 square feet of flexible event space; several of the spaces are naturally lit and overlook the Conservation Area and the 3-acre pool backyard. The nearby JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort and Spa has 547 rooms and over 100,000 square feet of adaptable venue space, including the Marquis Ballroom, which can accommodate 1,200 attendees.
Being near Red Rock Canyon offers the chance for a completely different and immersive desert experience. Group adventures range from hiking in the canyon’s crazy rock formations, horseback riding through the desert hills, biking across the spectacular landscape and even trying a hand at rock climbing. The Red Rock Resort complements these outdoor activities with its Well & Being program at the spa. Here, attendees can take part in 15-30 minute mindful breaks on “find your focus,” “tension buster,” “laughter yoga,” as well as spa treatments, and “lunch in a jar” team-building sessions, offering challenges on how to build a lunch jar as a nutritious and delicious alternative to the sack lunch (or those groaning Vegas lunch buffets).
Within 20 miles of the airport and the Strip you can enjoy an idyllic lakeside setting for group meetings. In Henderson, on the shores of Lake Las Vegas, two acclaimed hotels provide a restorative backdrop of water and desert. The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa has 493 rooms, over 90,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space and a lush new Aveda G Spa Lago. The hotel has two Jack Nicklaus golf courses nearby: Reflection Bay Golf Club next door and South Shore Golf Club across the lake. The hotel also partners with Lake Las Vegas Water Sports, offering kayaking, paddleboarding and more.
Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa has over 100,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space and 349 guest rooms within 3,400 acres of Lake Las Vegas Development. Outdoor group activities include sailing, biking, jet skiing, and fishing adventures.
ENLISTING THE PROFESSIONALS
Whether it’s a 10-person retreat or a companywide gathering of 3,000, The Entertainment Capital of the World is ready to serve and entertain you. Amy Riley, senior director of business sales for the LVCVA, suggests you start your planning with a call to her office. “Meeting planners will always find the most value by calling the LVCVA,” she says. “We can direct you to the best space and time to book your meeting, and can talk through any meeting trends in the destination as well as new offerings, which are constantly evolving. We also offer the unique guidance of specialty markets managers who can help planners create meetings and events for those specifically interested in sports, LGBTQ, health, wellness and medical travel, romance travel and more.”