IRF + JCK Meet in Las Vegas at MGM Resorts

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MGM Resorts Las Vegas Hosts Jewelry Juggernaut
The Beach at Mandalay Bay

The 18 million-sf CityCenter Las Vegas opened in 2009 with no less than six LEED Gold-certified properties. One of them, the 4,004-room, 5-diamond ARIA Resort & Casino, opened as the largest LEED Gold building in the world. The commitment to sustainability continues with this summer’s introduction of the Strip’s first private electric vehicle charging station at the 3,211-room Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.

Both are part of MGM Resorts International, and beyond their proven green mission, they provide unlimited variety for meeting, F&B and entertainment venues when packaged with the rest of MGM’s portfolio, including Bellagio and SKYLOFTS at MGM Grand.

We checked in at ARIA this summer for the Incentive Research Foundation’s 18th annual Incentive Invitational. During the 4-day educational/networking event, IRF unveiled its latest white paper: “The Design & Impact of Employee Recognition Incentive Travel Programs,” which you can access at

The innovative paper examines a methodology for companies to create nomination-based travel incentive programs for non-sales employees, who are typically not offered travel rewards. The conclusions of the paper focus on six best practices ranging from the importance of clarifying the nomination process to creating transparent selection and evaluation guidelines.

The internal politics of such a program can be dicey due to the subjective nature of the selection process, versus the quota-based selection process inherent within sales departments. The IRF’s white paper exposes those potential challenges and offers ways to nip them in the bud, based on the successful experiences of an organization who operates such a program.

Next year’s Invitational takes place at the new 1,002-room JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country. For an “On Location” story covering ARIA, visit

For the first time, MGM Resorts hosted the annual JCK Las Vegas convention this summer, bringing together a whopping 35,000 global buyers and suppliers working in the jewelry industry. The HQ hotel was Mandalay Bay.

Because of the sheer size of the group, MGM decided early out to embrace communication via Twitter/Facebook far ahead of the event for two reasons: To educate attendees about the myriad product offerings, and learn as much as they could about the group’s mindset.

MGM operates almost 200 restaurants, for example, so it was imperative to give attendees an overall idea of F&B options upfront, as well as dedicated concierge lines to make reservations. Meanwhile, MGM was able to track the social media chatter to see where they needed to adapt.

“It also gave us in advance of the show an opportunity to look into people’s minds,” says Richard Harper, executive vp of sales/marketing. “Usually you have a pretty strong feeling about the planners and the organizers, but you don’t know what’s on the minds of the attendees coming into an event, especially one of this magnitude. So that really allowed us to prepare better.”

When asked what were some of the major challenges involved with a group of this scale, Mr. Harper had to chuckle.

“Well, there were a few,” he says. For one, the security to protect the pricey baubles was, by far, more comprehensive than MGM has ever supervised before. Also, group transfer requirements during peak times and group migration throughout the complex had to be anticipated. Would the group return to previous dining and nightlife venues they’d patronized during previous events, or would they all show up en masse at MGM’s? (They all showed up at MGM’s).

And it goes on: Staffing was a major concern. The manual for properly illuminating jewelry resembles a bible. And to make things interesting, there was a 20,000-pax group loading in the day JCK wrapped.

“Cooperation with their decorator, Freeman—the partnership and communication was phenomenal,” says Harper. “Considering a show of that size and scope for year one, to go as well as it did was simply a testament to the collective efforts of the company….

“Part of our pitch was you’re not just buying Mandalay Bay for one week for a trade show, you’re really buying the entire company. You know, out of the 610,000 employees who work here, I don’t think there’s a single one today who can’t tell you what JCK is.”

The event capped off with a gala Bruno Mars concert at The Beach at Mandalay Bay. The party was a big success and JCK rebooked for 2012.


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