How’s 2014 been for Las Vegas?
We’re having a record year this year and are on target to attract over 40m visitors to the city for the first time ever. Business and group sales are strong – up around 5% on 2013, with the number of convention delegates up 3.7% year to date through August compared to the same time last year. We had 22,000 events in 2013 and over 5.1m delegates, and many of our properties are reporting a high number and diversity of groups this year. We do host major trade shows and conventions, but 80% of the events are under 500 people, so we attract groups of all shapes and sizes and from all sectors too. The IT sector has always been strong for us, but we’re seeing financial services and healthcare, in particular, coming back.
How important are international markets for MICE business?
International meetings business has been a big focus for us and we now have dedicated staff in six markets globally including the UK, Sao Paulo, Mexico, Shanghai and Canada. We have seen an increase in international delegates attending large trade shows – as much as 30% of attendance, which is a positive trend. From the UK, we tend to see smaller groups coming out for sales incentives, but its increasingly popular, helped by the fact getting here is so easy now with direct daily flights from both Heathrow and Gatwick.
Has hosting IMEX America boosted business?
Yes we have definitely seen a boost as a result of hosting the show here. It’s a great partnership and has bought an audience to us that didn’t know much about the destination. It also works well in conjunction with the European IMEX show as Vegas gets a boost from Frankfurt and vice versa.
What’s new in Vegas for event planners?
The new SLS Hotel just opened on the strip in August, which is really cool. We’ve also seen the opening of The Cromwell hotel, which is a great all-suite boutique property and home to Giada restaurant, which is one of the most popular in town, and the Delano at Mandalay Bay this year. The High Roller big wheel opened at The Linq in April, and that offers some great group packages.
What’s in the pipeline?
We have lots of new developments in the pipeline, including an expansion to the Mandalay Bay convention center and development of a new meeting and special event project downtown. Across from the SLS, MGM is building an outdoor festival area, which will host the Rock in Rio festival next May for over 250,000 people across two weekends. MGM is also partnering with AEG on a $375m new 20,000-seat arena for 2016, while the Resorts World Las Vegas is expected to open in 2017. In addition, a planned $2.3bn Global Business District project is in the planning and funding stages are expected to be rolled out over the next five to eight years.