Photography: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA)
Cincinnati. St. Louis. Singapore. Philadelphia. The Philippines. With the opportunity to gamble in an increasing number of regional and international cities, incentive planners today have a much wider range of options to consider when they're looking for an incentive gaming destination. In Las Vegas, however, rather than ruffle feathers, this has only made incentive professionals smile.
"The increase in gaming destinations worldwide only makes Las Vegas a more viable option for meetings and incentives," says Stephanie Arone, president and general manager of Las Vegas--based Activity Planners, Inc. "Competitively speaking, the overall value--add of our destination far surpasses that of any other gaming destination internationally."
Allen Oakley, executive director of business development for Baskow and Associates, a Las Vegas--based event--planning firm, asserts that these regional gaming opportunities actually encourage people to visit Las Vegas. "All they do is train people to come [here]," he says.
"It's not that people are not going to come to Vegas because there are regional opportunities for gaming," adds Michael Dominguez, senior vice president of sales for MGM Resorts International. "They're just going to be able to enjoy those opportunities closer to home. They're still going to be coming to Vegas."
And come they do: Last year, the city saw nearly 40 million visitors, the second--highest visitation amount ever. Why is that? First, as Arone pointed out, there's no place like Sin City when it comes to value. It has arguably the most hotel rooms, air accessibility, and event space (more than 10.7 million square feet, according to a March Las Vegas Review--Journal estimate) of any other gaming city in the U.S. Confidence in Vegas's ability to draw groups is only growing.
"We've been reinvesting in our properties to the tune of $6.6 billion over the last year and a half, and more is continuing," Chris Meyer, vice president of global business sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), told Successful Meetings in November. "It's a five--year plan. I don't know of any other destination that is doing that."
Sure enough, less than two years ago, McCarran International Airport saw the opening of its brand--new Terminal 3 to allow for even more flights into and out of Vegas and to ensure smoother service. In May, Caesars Entertainment will open the Strip's first boutique property, The Cromwell, a 188--room upscale hotel--casino that will feature a 65,000--square--foot rooftop nightclub and pool deck. Over Labor Day weekend of this year, the much--anticipated $415--million SLS Las Vegas hotel will open on the north end of the Strip with 1,600 rooms and 30,000 square feet of flexible event space; the property will also offer several restaurant and nightlife brands operated by SBE, including The Bazaar by Jos Andrs, Katsuya, and Umami Burger. Meanwhile,Malaysia's Genting Group is preparing to build another massive casino project in the same area, the $4--billion Resorts World Las Vegas.
"You see the city is putting the effort in," says Oakley. "People here in Vegas understand."
Dominguez explains that this is because the recession underscored just how important MICE business was for Las Vegas. Arone adds that it created not just a hungrier, but also a more efficient and creative MICE community in Las Vegas.
"Both planners and service providers are more savvy now, and collectively we are working more efficiently," she says. "The importance of content and ROI have replaced the days of the 'boondoggle.'"
As a result, Las Vegas has been working hard to highlight the fact that it is a cost--effective one--stop shop for groups, says Oakley: "Here in Vegas it's just so simple. Everything's taken care of," he says.