Meetings are coming back to casino cities around the world from Las Vegas to Macau. While new construction has tapered off, existing casino hotels are developing new product and programs that pay off big with luxurious rooms, exciting entertainment, upscale F&B and overall value.
“Las Vegas means business,” says Amy Riley, senior director of convention sales at the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. “We have the hotels to make that happen, whether for groups of 25 or 25,000. We’re constantly changing, and our hotels are always reinventing themselves. The leisure and gaming market is important, but now they’re remodeling in a way that makes sense for attendees, adding meeting space with the needs of groups in mind.”
According to Riley, it’s working. Industries that got hit in 2008 such as pharma, insurance and automotive are coming back and meeting again in Las Vegas.
“They’re back in the real world of eating out and doing reward programs, and it’s the same for associations,” she says. Riley advises meeting planners to work through the LVCVA to find the most value and luxury level for their budget and meeting needs.
WYNN & ENCORE, LAS VEGAS
Pull into the Wynn & Encore Las Vegas luxury complex on the north end of the Strip and it’s like entering your own gated community, complete with lush landscaping and abundant waterfalls. But affordable options can be found inside these towers that shine like black gold in the Vegas sun.
Wynn Las Vegas has more Forbes 4-star restaurants than anyone other casino hotel in North America. The newest to open this year is the haute Chinese restaurant, Wing Lei. Voted “Best Chinese Restaurant” by Las Vegas Life, Wing Lei serves a mix of Cantonese, Shanghai and Szechwan flavors. And it’s the only Asian restaurant in North America to earn a Michelin star.
Step inside the lobby at Wynn and your surrounded by rich elegance straight out of Casino Royale with art nouveau chandeliers and colorful mosaic tile floors leading to 260,000 sf of meeting space shared by the two properties. The 2,700 guest rooms at the Wynn are sophisticated and understated in brown, beige and cream tones, offering stunning views of either the Strip or the Tom Fazio-designed Wynn Golf Club, the only course attached to a resort on the Strip.
“Once you get on property you sometimes feel you’re not in Las Vegas,” says Danielle Babilino, senior vp of hotel.
convention sales. “We use a lot of natural light and every plant in the building is real. The decor is vibrant with rich fabrics and layers upon layers of details, including stunning chocolate silk wall coverings that everyone has to walk up and touch. Even though we’re a large property, it feels very intimate.”
Babilino adds that it’s still a buyer’s market for small and large groups converging in the city.
“Las Vegas became a tremendous value with the recession, and it’s still a value compared with the rest of the country when you look at room rates,” she says.
MGM RESORTS LAS VEGAS
“One thing these properties have in common, is that for such large meeting facilities, they do large well,” says Michael Dominguez, senior vp of sales for MGM Resorts International. “We had the Conference Direct people here earlier, and it was nice to hear them saying how we are able to take something so big and make it so personal.”
The 5,044-room MGM Grand Las Vegas, with a whopping 602,000 sf meeting space, has been a fixture on the Strip for 20 years. Following a $160 million “Grand Renovation,” the self-described City of Entertainment has a much more modern appeal and a more contemporary room design.
A first glimpse inside reveals an enormous circular lobby with polished terrazzo-like floors and starry lights spread over the golden-hued ceiling and walls. Spacious guest rooms are a mix of gray tones, wood panels and bold colorful touches throughout. Busy planners may be the perfect candidates for a Stay Well room, featuring sunrise simulators and blue lights in the bathroom to help travelers adjust to jet lag.
For groups, MGM Grand is a small city unto itself with every form of amenity, F&B and entertainment, delivering exceptional value and convenience.
“The breadth of food and beverage available just within MGM Grand is amazing, especially with our internationally known chefs,” says Dominguez. “We have four or five restaurants that we can open up to groups, whether it’s Craftsteak or Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier.”
As large as the conference facilities are, Dominguez says the fact that they’re spread out allows for the flexibility to do large conventions or multiple small groups.
“Although we have a lot of space, the majority of our business is still 250 rooms or less,” he says.
The 4,004-room ARIA Resort & Casino Las Vegas opened in 2009 with 300,000 sf of meeting space. Modern luxury is the theme here with a sleek glass tower piercing the Strip’s skyline in dramatic fashion from its CityCenter complex, while offering groups a meeting-friendly environment with affordable options.
“The meeting space in ARIA is on a completely different level in another part of the hotel,” says Dominguez. “Our separate convention center lets us make sure our groups are very much focused on their meetings while still having all the luxury offerings of Las Vegas just steps away.”
One of the most modern design-conscious hotels on the Strip, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas features an integrated art program with 500 digital displays embedded around the 2,995-room hotel. In collaboration with Digital Kitchen, Rockwell Lab, Art Production Fund and artists like Kenny Scharf and Yoko Ono, The Cosmopolitan immerses attendees in art and light design at every turn.
One highlight is the digital art columns that greet attendees the moment they step inside the hotel’s movie-set interior, headlined by the wickedly cool Chandelier Bar. Director Michael Bay was reportedly transfixed by the experience.
“The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas features a stellar roster of the world’s most recognized designers,” says Doug Gennardo, vp of sales. “Which promises striking and intriguing architecture and style from every imaginable vantage point.”
An artist-in-residence program called P3 Studio engages attendees with artists in their high-tech studios.
“In the past we have hosted groups with an exclusive experience inside our P3 Studio where meeting attendees meet and greet with our artists,” says Gennardo. “We have provided some really well-received art tours for our groups, and art is incorporated into the conference spaces with some unexpected touches.” Total meeting space is 150,000 sf.