“Las Vegas has had its share of difficult times in the last few years,” says Mike Massari, senior vice president of Caesars Entertainment Corp., but he’s optimistic. “This is going to be a fantastic year.”
Even with competition from other gaming towns, Vegas is still the No. 1 destination for business meetings—more than 22,000 took place here in 2013, according to Chris Meyer, vice president of global business sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). In 2013, the LVCVA reports, meetings and conventions brought $7.4 billion to Las Vegas; almost 13 percent of southern Nevada’s visitors are delegates to convention and trade shows, the agency says.
To attract more of them to the south end of the Strip, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is adding 350,000 sf of exhibit space to its 1.7 million-sf convention center—set for completion in August 2015. Underground parking and soft ballroom revamps are also in the works. The expansion will hoist the convention center into the No. 5 spot in the U.S. for total square feet. The other big news in this over-the-top adult playground is small (well, small for Vegas, anyway): The Cromwell, the first stand-alone luxury boutique hotel to hit the Strip. Caesars Entertainment plans to open the 188-room property in late May and is infusing it with the star power of celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis and nightclub mogul Victor Drai.
For small groups who want a more private gaming experience, the 40,000-sf casino includes a reserved gaming room with three tables and a sitting area; the room can be curtained off from the rest of the casino.
The property replaces Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon, and it could signal a change for Vegas. Caesars is still creating plenty of traditional venues like the Quad Resort & Casino and The LINQ, but “this is different,” says Massari. “It’s not just another enormous resort, but a true boutique hotel.”
There’s more room now for smaller, more personal experiences alongside the eye-popping kind, says the LVCVA’s Meyer. MGM Grand Las Vegas is converting several floors to “wellness” areas devoted to health and well-being, he says, complete with aromatherapy to relieve jet lag. Nobu Hotel in Caesars Palace follows the “hotel within a hotel” concept, as does the Four Seasons at Mandalay Bay.
“It’s all about the customer experience,” Meyer says. “We’re starting to hear that a lot from our clients.”
The experience at J.W. Marriott Las Vegas Resort provides the best of both worlds, says Carmen Rubino Jr., vice president of hotel operations. The 500-room property is north of the Strip. “We’re close enough to turn on Las Vegas,” Rubino quips, “but far enough away that you can turn it off.”
Groups will find “it’s all business during the day” with plenty of fun after hours or between meetings. The hotel works with groups of three to 500 people.
Rubino says groups get “a wonderful view” of both the Strip and the nearby mountains from the hotel’s 12,000-sf Valencia ballroom, which was just upgraded with new paint, carpeting and other details. The coming summer will bring a complete renovation of the hotel’s Spa Tower guest rooms, which is expected to be finished in early September. Rubino says the recession “stopped a lot of these programs,” but business is back and so are expectations.
“I’m very excited about the guest room redo. . . . We’re going to continue to reinvent ourselves as Las Vegas does.”