Ten years ago, Las Vegas attracted an all-time high 6,307,961 delegates. The wave continued in 2007, which saw still-standing records for total meetings, room occupancy, air arrivals and gaming revenue. Then trouble hit as the global recession froze development, sent unemployment surging and wiped out millions of dollars in group bookings via “bad optics” and the “AIG effect.” Today, the exuberance is back full-swing, with most investment and development, inspired by record-setting visitor arrivals and surging meetings business, on solid ground.
Unsurprisingly, Las Vegas’ juggernaut numbers, including its 22nd consecutive year as North America’s tradeshow leader, is only intensifying the competitive forces. With U.S. convention heavyweights Chicago and Orlando sharpening their hooks for more business share, the competition is also heating up abroad, in destinations such as Milan, Italy.
Long accustomed to having this target on its back, Las Vegas, now asserting itself as both the world’s entertainment and meetings capital, is savvy to the challenge. Adding to the billions of dollars already invested in the Strip and Downtown in recent years, another $9 billion—equal to the current value of the city’s meetings economy—in new projects is planned or anticipated for the next three years. Here are some highlights of why Las Vegas, its chips back up, should be considered the favorite to stay ahead in the high-stakes global competition for meeting supremacy.
From hotel upgrades to convention center expansions, the city’s resorts and other operators are committing major resources to staying ahead.
The last five years have seen Caesars Entertainment Corporation enhance the Vegas scene with innovative new products such as The LINQ Promenade, High Roller observation wheel and The Cromwell, the only stand-alone boutique hotel on the Strip. In 2016, Caesars is enhancing existing assets by upgrading some 4,800 rooms, or roughly one-fifth of its Vegas inventory.
These include the already-completed boutique makeover of the original 587-room Roman Tower at Caesars Palace, rebranded as the Julius Tower, as part of the resort’s 50th anniversary this year. With the 948-room Augustus Tower also getting a refresh, other transformations include more than 1,294 rooms and suites at Planet Hollywood; some 672 South Tower rooms at Harrah’s Las Vegas; and approximately 1,320 rooms and suites at Paris Las Vegas.
Following last October’s meeting between the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee—the multi-stakeholder group enacted by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to formally identify and prioritize convention, tourism and gaming improvement projects and funding mechanisms—and organizers of the city’s top tradeshows, Las Vegas continues to expand its convention footprint to meet rising demand.
Opened in early April of this year, MGM Resorts International’s The Park, inspired by the great public spaces of the world, integrates existing and newly built elements to create an immersive outdoor “neighborhood” removed from the pedestrian conveyer belt of the Strip. Framed by and connecting MGM Resorts’ New York-New York and Monte Carlo resort-casinos, the eight-acre, $100 million Park flows expansively from the Strip’s west side toward the new 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena.
Announced in 2013 along with The Park and built in part to attract an NHL (or NBA) franchise, the $375 million arena, a joint venture between MGM Resorts International and AEG, delivers a full-scale entertainment venue in the heart of the city.
Last year, The Tropicana Las Vegas–a DoubleTree by Hilton completed a $200 million transformation, including adding 26,000 square feet of space to the Pavilion for a total of 100,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space. This April, the property introduced Sky Beach Club, a new 37,603-square-foot South Beach-inspired pool venue featuring live music, celebrity-hosted events, VIP cabanas and more.
Downtown Las Vegas continues to thrive with updated or expanded meeting facilities at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, The Venue Las Vegas, Downtown Las Vegas Events Center and the D Las Vegas.
Amid the exuberance, three internationally backed projects are stirring excitement—while also raising questions.