by Leo Jakobson | July 11, 2018

Unsurprisingly in a strong economy, Las Vegas is seeing incentive groups flock to the city.

"The incentive business in general is quite healthy and is doing quite well in Las Vegas, in part because business owners and leaders really understand the direct connection between incremental sales and behavior changes and these types of efforts," says Michael Massari, chief sales officer of Caesars Entertainment. "Companies' understanding of the levers to pull to grow sales, and how meetings, events and incentives relate to that is, I think, at an all-time high."

The Fly LINQ will let 10 people soar,
Superman-style, from a 122-foot tower
to the base of the High Roller
Observation Wheel

Caesars Entertainment has been doubling down lately, having renovated more than 15,500 of its more than 23,000 hotel rooms in the city in just the past four years. But beyond that, the company is investing heavily in the area around The LINQ, its outdoor dining, retail and entertainment area across the Strip from Caesars Palace. That ranges from the Fly LINQ -- a forthcoming new zip-line attraction that will let 10 people soar "Superman" style (or seated) from a 122-foot tower to the base of the High Roller Observation Wheel -- to the new Caesars Forum.

That $375 million conference and event center will feature 550,000 square feet of meeting and event space. "While the ballrooms we're building are large, there will be plenty of unique spaces, including the outdoor pavilion area, so I think there'll be plenty of uses for incentives for the larger companies that have larger incentives," Massari says. "The LINQ is a really unique retail area. When we add the Forum to it in 2020, I don't think there will be anything like it anywhere. Groups of all sizes have just been clamoring to make use of it. It can handle everything from a small dine-around to a big party for Amazon for some 20,000 people."

MGM Resorts International's big news is the opening of the Park MGM in the space formerly taken by the Monte Carlo. The property features 102 of MGM's Stay Well rooms and the 5,200-seat, high-tech Park Theater, and flanks The Park, MGM's growing outdoor space. It will connect seamlessly to the Strip via a 30,000-square-foot upscale Italian market, Eataly. Still forthcoming is a boutique-style "hotel-within-a-hotel" on its top four floors, the 292-room NoMad Hotel, an outpost of the New York City boutique property by Chef Daniel Humm and Restaurateur Will Guidara, the team behind the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Eleven Madison Park. The Luxor Hotel and Casino has wrapped a redesign of all of its more than 1,700 hotel rooms in its east and west towers.

The all-suite Delano Las Vegas has introduced a new option for incentive groups: all-inclusive pricing for groups booking 10 or more rooms. The packages cover amenities at both the Delano and Mandalay Las Vegas, including open-bar packages at the pool and several other bars, and dining options at restaurants by chefs Alain Ducasse, Hubert Keller and Michael Mina, among others.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is
renovating 2,895 of the luxurious
property's 3,027 rooms in a project
set to wrap up this year

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is renovating 2,895 of the luxurious property's 3,027 rooms in a project set to wrap up this year. "Where The Cosmopolitan is at today is a reinvention of the property that opened its doors more than six years ago," says Bill McBeath, president and CEO of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. "The past two years have been a transformative process that has reinvigorated gaming, food and beverage and [seen] the complete redesign of our hotel rooms -- they are bold, innovative and a direct reflection of our alluring brand."

Virgin Hotels has purchased the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas with plans to reconceptualize and revitalize the 1,500-room property. It will continue to operate under the Hard Rock brand through late fall 2019 when renovations are scheduled to be complete and it will be renamed the Virgin Hotel Las Vegas. Work will include the guest rooms, restaurants, public spaces and the 60,000-square-foot casino.

The two largest hotel companies have announced plans to open properties on the Las Vegas Strip for the first time. Hilton will be first when Waldorf Astoria takes over the 392-room Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas in MGM Resorts International's CityCenter development. Waldorf Astoria plans to renovate and improve the property to match its brand style, and will introduce True Waldorf Service with Personal Concierge. The property has 12,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

The long-dormant Fontainebleau project got new life when Marriott International announced plans to turn the property into The Drew, a 63-story resort casino with nearly 4,000 rooms and 500,000 square feet of meeting and event space. Located on the northern end of the Strip near Circus-Circus, the property will be home to a trio of JW Marriott and EDITION hotels.

Golden Entertainment, the new owners of the 2,427-room Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, will invest $140 million in the casino hotel, known mainly for the observation lounge and restaurant at the top of the 1,149-foot tower. Plans call for the renovation of more than 1,100 rooms, adding several restaurants, refreshing the Top of the World restaurant and the Tower experience, creating a new casino near the thrill rides, and adding 50,000 square feet of meeting space.

Play the Game
On the sporting front, the Vegas Golden Knights expansion team playing at MGM's T-Mobile Arena shocked the hockey world -- and electrified its hometown -- by the unheard-of feat of making it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals in its inaugural season. In 2020, they will be joined by the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders -- currently of Oakland -- when the $1.9 billion football stadium going up a mile and a half from the Strip is finished.

Over at Luxor Hotel and Casino, another type of sport debuted in March, when MGM unveiled its Esports Arena Las Vegas, dedicated to the huge and growing world of competitive video gaming. The 30,000-square-foot arena has incredible audiovisual capacities. This includes head-to-head virtual reality platforms, a network-broadcast-capable TV production studio, and a 360-degree video wall for an immersive experience, as well as telescopic seats. Five VIP rooms, complete with their own gaming stations, are also suitable for small parties during events.

The Park MGM, in the space formerly
taken by the Monte Carlo, features 102
of MGM's Stay Well rooms and the
5,200-seat, high-tech Park Theater

Noting that the production values in live esports matches are something the entire meetings and events industry "could learn from," Michael Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer for MGM Resorts International, says that the biggest international competitions can draw tens of millions of livestreaming viewers. As a result, he adds, the Esports Arena Las Vegas' technology capabilities are "huge."

An interesting aside is that for the first time ever, Caesars Entertainment is developing a pair of non-gaming hotels, Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai and Caesars Bluewaters Dubai, on a manmade island in the Gulf nation.  

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This article appears in the Summer 2018 issue of Incentive.