On Mask Mandates and More
The value proposition of gaming resorts — the all-under-one-roof entertainment options, streamlined logistics and spacious meeting venues — are particularly appealing to many planners as they get back to booking in-person events. And the resort operators are doing what they can to sweeten the pot. Case in point: The investment and pace of development and expansion in the gaming hubs of Las Vegas and Atlantic City are producing new and innovative meeting spaces and hotels. Here’s a look at the latest draws for groups.
Visitors already are returning in droves to the nation’s gaming capital, and based on the long list of new and updated venues, the city clearly wants to welcome back meetings, as well.
Meanwhile, weekend vacationers are breaking in the new venues, in greater numbers each month. Nearly 2.9 million visitors arrived in May (the most recent data available), an 11.8 percent increase over the previous month, with more than 3.5 million passengers passing through McCarran International Airport. The 87.8 percent weekend hotel occupancy that month came within 9 percentage points of reaching May 2019 levels.
While business travelers are slower to return — midweek hotel occupancy was 62.8 percent in May — that promises to grow considerably when this summer’s visitation data becomes available. Conference-goers from the events industry experienced the latest Vegas has to offer during Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress, which drew 1,300 attendees June 15-17. And Cvent enticing about 1,300 participants to its Connect conference, held in the city Aug. 1-4.
Meanwhile, the World of Concrete, the largest trade show to be held in the country since the pandemic began, attracted about 15,000 attendees and 650 vendors to the newly expanded Las Vegas Convention Center in early June.
Now Open in Las Vegas
This North Strip megaproject was years in the making, but at long last Resorts World Las Vegas has opened its doors. The highly anticipated property — the first newly built resort to open in the city since 2010 — debuted June 24. The $4.3 billion, 88-acre project offers 3,500 rooms across three Hilton-branded hotels, 250,000 square feet of meeting space, 40 food-and-beverage outlets, a 117,000-square-foot casino, a 27,000-square-foot spa, nine pools and a 5,000-seat theater. Malaysia-based Genting Group, which owns the Resorts World brand, created a modern look with Asian design elements throughout the complex.
The three on-site hotels are the 1,774-room Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World, 1,496-room Conrad Las Vegas, and the most luxurious option, the 236-room Crockfords Las Vegas, an LXR Hotels & Resorts property, part of a relatively new high-end collection in the Hilton family. Guests have access to cutting-edge, contactless tech throughout the resort, from mobile check-in and digital keys through the Hilton Honors app, to cashless betting apps for the casino, to a GrubHub-powered app called On the Fly, through which guests can order from any of the F&B outlets and have food delivered anywhere on property. Entertainment is scheduled to begin in November at the Zouk Nightclub, Ayu Dayclub, and via residencies at the theater. There is also 70,000 square feet of retail space at the resort.
Coming soon, Resorts World will also serve as the first connector station for the Vegas Loop underground transport system built by Elon Musk’s Boring Co., which uses Tesla vehicles to transport attendees underneath the Las Vegas Convention Center campus. By the end of this summer, the Resorts World station should be in operation.
The Las Vegas Convention Center Loop has been fully operational since the World of Concrete trade show, for which the service debuted. Eventually, the plan is to use autonomous vehicles for the free service, but currently the cars have drivers. Plans are underway for a 10-mile underground expansion that will connect the convention center tunnels to the Strip, downtown and McCarran International Airport.
The World of Concrete also marked the official debut of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s $1 billion expansion and the new 1.4 million-square-foot West Hall. The new space offers plenty of natural lighting and 600,000 square feet for exhibits, including a 328,000-square-foot column-free space. The hall includes an open-air atrium with a 10,000-square-foot digital screen developed by Samsung, as well as a 14,000-square-foot terrace than accommodates receptions for up to 2,000 attendees. The convention center is now the second-largest in the country.
Among other recent debuts is the 1,500-room Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. The off-Strip property is a rebrand of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, following a major overhaul of the space. The resort features a dozen food-and-beverage establishments, a spa, a 60,000-square-foot casino, and more than 130,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space. A number of entertainment venues are on-site, including the Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, which seats 4,500 people, and AEG Presents: 24 Oxford, an underground music venue, and a 13,000-square-foot event lawn.
Late 2020 saw the opening of Circa, the first new resort to be built in downtown Las Vegas since 1980. The 777-room, adults-only property features the tallest hotel tower north of the Strip, at 458 feet. A unique pool amphitheater, Stadium Swim, is open year-round. The resort also has a two-story casino; a sportsbook with a massive, 78-million-pixel screen; and the Legacy Club, an 8,400-square-foot indoor/outdoor venue with 360-degree views of the city and a terrace with fire pits.
Back on the Strip, Caesars Entertainment has just unveiled a $200 million renovation at Harrah’s Las Vegas, which includes 2,542 redesigned guest rooms and a remodeled casino. The property’s remaining 1,622 rooms were remodeled in 2016 and 2018.
Also new at Harrah’s is a skybridge that connects the hotel to Caesars Forum, the 550,000-square-foot conference center that debuted last year. The eagerly awaited facility — which hosted MPI’s WEC in June and Cvent Connect in August — adds a wealth of meeting space to the center Strip area. It features two 110,000-square-foot pillarless ballrooms, two 40,000-square-foot ballrooms and 110 breakout rooms — all within walking distance of about 20,000 hotel rooms, 8,500 of which are operated by Caesars. The venue also has open-air space, in the form of the 100,000-square-foot Forum Plaza, adjacent to the conference center and bordering the Linq Promenade’s outdoor shopping and entertainment area.
Just outside of the city, MGM Resorts International made its operations on the Strip more environmentally sustainable with a 100-megawatt solar array in the desert, which now powers as much as 90 percent of the daytime energy needed by the company’s more than 65 million square feet of structures, encompassing 13 properties and more than 36,000 rooms on the Strip. The solar array is the hospitality industry’s largest directly sourced renewable-electricity project, according to MGM. In conjunction with the launch, the company has announced ambitious goals: By 2030, MGM intends to source 100 percent renewable energy in the United States and 80 percent worldwide.
One of those Strip properties that’s being powered by the array, the Bellagio, is in the midst of a guest-room remodeling project. The project at the 3,933-room resort began this spring and will upgrade all 2,568 rooms in the main tower. The first came online in April, and the project will be completed later this summer.