City aims to sew up conference, trade show markets

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LAS VEGAS -- Convenience, climate, leisure opportunities and entertainment make this town irresistible for planners of conferences and trade shows.

Delegate numbers increased from 1.7 million attending 1,000 conventions in 1990 to 3.8 million gathering at 3,847 conventions in 1999, representing a nongaming economic impact that has climbed from $1.4 billion to $4 billion in the last decade, according to a spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

In the months of November and January alone, more than 300,000 delegates from Comdex and the Consumer Electronics Association filled hotel rooms to capacity, she said.

Las Vegas continues to grow as a meetings destination. Other large organizations, such as the 90,000 delegates from Magic (Mens Apparel Guild of California) who convene in Las Vegas in February and August, are enticed by a winning hand of marketing tools that include:

  • An infrastructure where meetings facilities are central to hotel rooms.
  • Weather that is warm and sunny year-round.
  • A diversity of locales offering late-night dinners and shows.
  • Entertainment that rivals anywhere else in the nation.
  • Named the nation's leader for large trade shows and rental exhibit space for the sixth consecutive year by Tradeshow magazine, the city is determined to maintain its prominence and to expand its horizons even wider.

    Targeting the convention business as a prime marketing objective, the LVCVA is carrying out a master plan that involves a 1.3 million-square-foot South Hall addition to the Las Vegas Convention Center.

    The project, which starts in the fall, has an estimated completion date of fall 2001.

    PCL Construction, the Canadian contractor that remodeled the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, will oversee the project.

    The LVCVA spokeswoman envisions the completed 1,800-by-360-foot center as being as long as 10 football fields placed side-by-side and as wide as the length of one football field.

    The portion of the structure that spans Desert Inn Road will include ballrooms and meeting space.

    A 400-seat restaurant and eight concession stands will be available.

    A 50,000-square-foot kitchen facility to service the South Hall is planned on the site of the existing news bureau.

    The entire facility will provide 2 million square feet of exhibit space; 170 meeting rooms with a seating capacity from 20 to 7,500; concourses; shops, and storage.

    The new South Hall will have 25- to 30-foot ceilings on the first floor and 25-foot ceilings on the second floor, with moveable exhibit-space walls to accommodate both large and small shows.

    The $113 million South Hall addition follows a 320,000-square-foot North Hall expansion completed last year.

    The combined center spaces will provide 3.2 million square feet of the city's total 7.5 million square feet of convention and meetings space.

    The convention center project parallels the growth in hotel and motel rooms that has reached 123,331, and construction is not likely to level off soon, the spokeswoman said.

    "Throughout Las Vegas history, critics have asked when enough is enough when referring to the building boom and the steady addition of hotel rooms to the destination's inventory," she said.

    "Well, history has proven that the Las Vegas market can and does absorb the new room inventory. More than 10,000 rooms were added in 1999 alone, while we maintained annual occupancy rates that hover near 90%. Compared to the national average of about 64%, it's easy to see that Las Vegas continues to reinvent and market itself successfully," the spokeswoman said.

    While the convention and meetings crowd is impressive, it represents only about 10% of the total 35.5 million visitation figure projected for Las Vegas this year, she said.

    The convention figure is about the same percentage as international visitation, which is another group that has been targeted for growth by the LVCVA, according to the spokeswoman.

    In addition, the LVCVA is touting the city as a destination for incentive travel and also as an accessible and inexpensive getaway that rivals the Caribbean, she said.

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