At our recent one-on-one sit-down during IMEX America 2018 in Las Vegas, Steve Hill, the new CEO and president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), shared the story of his 1987 arrival. 

Then 28 years old and in the construction industry, the native Ohioan motored west to Vegas in his pick-up truck, promising his wife to return if his prospects did not pan out, and to bring her if they did.

The newcomer quickly made connections—and strong impressions—including on the bank officer who helped Hill finance Silver State Materials, his start-up business in concrete and aggregates. He struck gold on his very first project—the Mirage, launching the mega-resort era—and joined by his wife, they made Vegas their home.

His story is emblematic of mineral-rich Nevada, founded on gold and silver, as a place of opportunity.

Leveraging Innovation in Las Vegas

This year, travel industry intelligence leader Skift published an LVCVA-sponsored report on how the Las Vegas meetings industry is leveraging local innovation to expand its brand, enrichen the delegate experience and optimize conferencing value.

Among the spotlights were new technology-driven experiences at Downtown’s Mob and Neon museums, and future-forward developments including:

  • the Sands Corporation’s globe-shaped MSG Sphere Las Vegas event venue;
  • Caesars Entertainment’s new blockbuster CAESARS FORUM conference center;
  • MGM Resorts International’s new Esports Arena Las Vegas at Luxor Resort & Casino.

Innovation flourishes in Vegas because it can.

“We have the capacity to quickly evolve at a scale that would be too cumbersome, too difficult, and frankly, too scary for other companies and communities to attempt,” stated MGM’s chief sales officer Michael Dominguez in the report.

MGM’s $550 million transformation of the outdated Monte Carlo into the upscale Park MGM Las Vegas, incorporating the boutique NoMad Las Vegas, typifies a fearless embrace of redesign to stay ahead of the times.

Vegas reinventions typically start with an implosion; Park MGM's was reimagined from within.

Intentionally designed for small group interaction, innovative new spaces at Park MGM include the Madison Meeting Center, the first CMP and DMP meeting venue in Vegas with 10 high-tech rooms and two self-service community lounges; the scenic outdoor Central Terrace; and The Ideation Studio, a unique brainstorming hub with eight versatile environments for up to 25 attendees.

Showcased by Dominguez during IMEX America 2018, the Park MGM project relied on behavioral science—the study of human interaction—for elements such as furniture for facilitating eye-to-eye conversations.

Advanced technology at Park MGM includes the first-ever commercial use of proprietary Cisco “WebEx” smartboards for collaborative content-sharing and archiving among participants anywhere in the world.    

“It’s about creating obstacle-free spaces that maximize engagement and productivity,” Dominguez said.

Springs Preserve Botanical Gardens Event Space

Springs Preserve Botanical Gardens Event Space

For centuries, the Las Vegas Springs sustained area inhabitants before tapping out in 1962.

In 2007, these ancient aquifers became the public Springs Preserve. Covering 180 acres west of Downtown, this national landmark is a model of sustainability. Multiple group spaces include the LEED Platinum-certified Desert Living Center, 250-capacity Springs Amphitheater and sustainably constructed DesertSol. Plus, there is hiking and biking through native habitats and archaeological sites, as well as year-round thematic programming.

Big Name Companies Draw Groups to Reno

The Reno Tahoe economy keeps soaring as healthcare, entrepreneurial startups and technology-based industries diversify the region’s gaming and entertainment base, adding nearly 30,000 new jobs in the last two-plus years. The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority generates $3.1 billion annually for the regional economy.

The combined uplift has measurably benefitted the group market.

“It’s elevated our meetings status to exceptional levels,” said Ben McDonald, communication manager for the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA). “With Tesla, Apple and Panasonic and other tech companies contributing to a growing population, the destination is investing heavily in our major resorts, along with new brand-name, select service hotels, restaurants and neighborhood transformations.

"It’s a gold mine of opportunity for meetings, while remaining relatively affordable," he added.

Wins included Interbike, North America’s leading cycling tradeshow. Relocating after 16 years in Vegas, the week-long event, commencing a five-year run in 2018, attracted some 15,000 attendees to the high-tech Reno-Sparks Convention Center in September.

Interbike 2018 in Reno, Credit: Interbike

Interbike 2018 in Reno, Credit: Interbike

The RSCVA’s relationship-driven role in facilitating connections is another advantage.

“Initiatives include engaging local associations to bring their national and regional conventions here and introducing planners and clients to local experts and professionals,” McDonald said.  

Examples include connecting scientific conventions with the University of Nevada Reno’s earthquake lab for tours and demonstrations, and organizing facility tours at Amazon, Tesla and Switch.  

The match-ups include well-situated meetings infrastructure. Covering six contiguous blocks in the heart of Reno, Eldorado Resorts’ THE ROW unites the Eldorado Resort Casino, Circus Circus Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino to form northern Nevada’s largest resort complex, encompassing 4,000-plus rooms and 180,000 square feet of function space, plus 25 restaurants, 22 bars and lounges and 11 nightspots.

“Meeting planners can block up to 3,000 rooms per night under the same roof as their function,” said Don Goodman, executive director of sales with El Dorado Resorts' THE ROW. “As Reno’s traditional base in the association and SMERF markets has expanded to include corporate and STEM customers, we leverage our resources, amenities and connections to ensure their conferencing success."

THE ROW’s central location puts STEM clients close to the University of Nevada Reno. Convenient off-agenda options include the nearby Art District; Reno Riverwalk District; budding MidTown District; and Minor League Baseball and soccer.

“Reno saves planners an average of 20 percent, without sacrificing quality amenities for their attendees,” Goodman said.

More than $100 million in enhancements over the past three years, with more planned for 2019, include complete room renovations at all three properties, convention space upgrades, new 29,000-square-foot Spa at Silver Legacy and new dining concepts.

Other major players include Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, Peppermill Resort Hotel and Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel.

The Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks has invested $25 million in renovating 800 West Tower rooms and all 110,000 square feet of convention space.  

In northeastern Nevada, gold mining operations in nearby Long Canyon has the Elko meetings market on solid ground. Offering the nearly 30,000-square-foot Elko Convention Center, unique off-sites and new select-service hotels, Elko is also adding corporate groups to its traditional association base.

New Developments in Scenic Lake Tahoe

Mountain-backed Lake Tahoe abounds with built-in inspiration at places like hike-able Cave Rock, sacred to the Washoe Indians as “The Lady of the Lake” for its likeness to a woman’s face. 

“Lake Tahoe’s rejuvenating natural beauty encourages people to consider business opportunities from a new perspective,” said Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Carol Chaplin.

With its pedestrian-friendly downtown, South Lake Tahoe’s distinctions include flexible venues for meetings large and small, and inspiring recreational and teambuilding programs.

Other advantages include airlift, with 130 daily flights from destinations across the U.S. into Reno/Tahoe International Airport, and for skiers, new UberSki service.

“New development, redevelopment and renovations are continuing themes for many of our meeting partners,” Chaplin added.

More than $750 million in renaissance investments over the last six years include the following:

  • the new $100 million LEED-certified Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe;
  • room and meeting space enhancements at Caesars Entertainment’s Harrah’s and Harveys Lake Tahoe resorts;
  • Ridge Tahoe Resort’s new $2 million Castle Rock View Conference Center.  

This was another banner year for North Lake Tahoe, with occupancy and average daily rate increases region-wide.   

“Our continuing focus includes key markets attracted to our destination’s unique strengths,” said Jason Neary, director of conference sales for the North Lake Tahoe CVB. “These include premier incentives, large associations, high-level business meetings and 10,000-person sporting events.

“With accommodations ranging from five-star luxury to modest, abundant recreational opportunities and more, North Lake Tahoe offers unmatched versatility,” he added.

The bureau does not rest on its laurels.

“We constantly develop new interactive programs for clients,” Neary said. “These include guided hikes with seasoned park rangers, skiing with one of our Olympic medal winners or kayaking with a local world champion.”

North Lake Tahoe's East Shore, Credit: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe

North Lake Tahoe's East Shore, Credit: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe

Leading venues include the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino. Offering 50,000 square feet of flexible space, the property hosted a delegation of international media and trade representatives as part of the 2018 Nevada Governor's Global Tourism Summit.

Construction is underway on mixed-use Boulder Bay, slated to include a 275-room hotel and 20,000 square feet of meeting space. Oracle founder Larry Ellison and partners recently purchased Frank Sinatra’s legendary Cal Neva Resort & Casino, with possible plans to transform the 1926 property into a five-star resort.

Nevada CVB Contact Information

Carson City Culture and Tourism Authority

Elko Convention & Visitors Authority

Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

North Lake Tahoe CVB

Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority

Visit Laughlin

Visit Mesquite