In October, the third annual IMEX America tradeshow rolled into Las Vegas at the Sands Expo Convention Center. Almost 2,700 hosted buyers attended, up from 2,400 in 2012.
“The Las Vegas booth did over 2,000 appointments with our 28 different partners, and we ourselves had over 200 alone on our own,” says Chris Meyer, CEM/CMP, vice president global business sales at Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. “IMEX really exposes the business side of Las Vegas to buyer and suppliers. Everybody was engaged, and that’s a perfect example of the power of face-to-face meetings.”
Business is good overall. In 2012, Las Vegas welcomed a record volume of 39.7 million inbound. Meyer says the city is tracking this year to eclipse 40 million for the first time ever.
We asked Meyer, who receives an enormous amount of requests for interviews, if there was a question that he wishes someone in the press would ask, but never does.
“Yes, actually, there is,” he says. “The value proposition of Las Vegas for meetings and conventions is alive and well because of the competition inside the destination. For the customer, that’s awesome. That’s always a win.”
Meyer explains that everyone always talks about the value proposition of Las Vegas as a group destination in terms of the volume of hotel and lift, the quality of food and entertainment, and the constantly evolving wealth of meeting facilities—all of which is very important. But it’s the competition up and down the Strip, he says, that keeps the bar high in terms of individual service and making sure business gets done for all parties involved.
“We had 21,058 groups in 2012,” says Meyer. “Even with the consumer electronics show, which was something like 150,000 people, it was still treated as just one group. That’s what the hotels do here, they focus on one group at a time. That’s why we’ve come out of the Great Recession so successfully since 2010.”
Success builds on success. Air Canada for example is ramping up direct service from Toronto by expanding equipment from 737s to 767s. That has an immediate impact on international arrivals from Europe, something the LVCVA is hungry for.
International arrivals were up 21% in 2012 over 2011 and the growth curve continues to trend upward. Part of the reason is the quality and variety of new hotel and entertainment product.
As an example, Meyer mentions new shows like Michael Jackson ONE at Mandalay Bay and the LINQ project under development by Caesars Entertainment, including the world’s tallest observation wheel. According to Meyer, even Britney Spears’ upcoming residency at Planet Hollywood starting December 27 is creating a lot of buzz overseas.
We also asked Meyer, what does the Las Vegas brand stand for? The famous “What Happens in Las Vegas” campaign will go down as one of the great DMO marketing coups of all time. But what does that mean for groups?
“Our brand speaks to adult freedom,” says Meyer. “That can mean many different things to many different people. The main idea is that any adult can define his or her own version of Las Vegas. We provide those brand experiences to everyone, and that is the strength of Las Vegas.”