wo or three years ago, hotel rooms
were being constructed in Las Vegas faster than slot machines
Now, most of the city's construction projects are centered on
ballrooms and breakout rooms -- the bigger the better.
The meetings and convention market, apparently.
Consider the numbers.
During the last decade, this market has grown 120% in Las
Last year, according to statistics from the Las Vegas Convention
and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), nearly 3.9 million delegates
visited Las Vegas, bringing with them $4.3 billion of nongaming
Manny Cortez thinks so.
"Until recently, the meetings and convention market wasn't
really embraced by the resort industry," said Cortez, president and
chief executive officer of the LVCVA.
"The thinking then was that meetings attendees [were so busy that
they] weren't spending money in the casinos. The resort industry
now has come to the realization that convention attendees and
exhibitors and buyers really do spend more money per capita than
[leisure] travelers. They may spend more time here, but they also
"Ten years ago, I was literally told in a meeting by the
president and chairman of the board of one of the resorts here that
we should turn the [Las Vegas] Convention Center into a museum.
"[Since then], this same group has built and is in the process
of building more meeting space."
This change of head and heart is essential, especially if Las
Vegas is to survive and thrive in the 21st century, Cortez
"We've come, as a destination, to the realization that in order
for us to survive and stay ahead of the pack, the meetings market
is really the basis on which we build our visitor volume," he
"If you've got 125,000 hotel rooms, you're not going to fill
them midweek with FIT travelers."
So the properties revamped and renovated their existing meeting
space. In many cases, they expanded, building lavish ballrooms,
technologically advanced board rooms and even miniconvention
The square footage statistics continued to climb.
In fact, when the South Hall expansion at the Las Vegas
Convention Center is finished in December, the city will have
approximately 7.5 million square feet of convention and meetings
space, according to the LVCVA.
At that point, Cortez said, "in terms of raw square footage,
we're the largest as a destination offering meetings and convention
With that distinction, however, comes a great responsibility for
the meetings-oriented visitors who come here.
"We've designed our infrastructure to accommodate visitors," he
said. "[McCarran] Airport has continued to grow, and we're able to
provide unlimited accessibility to the resort industry here.
"The community itself is doing some things that make it a little
more user-friendly," he continued. "And the people who live here
"The community is geared to help [the meetings delegates]
conduct their business. The convention center and many of the
properties are designed to accommodate both the convention attendee
and the exhibitor."
From a meeting planner's perspective, Cortez said, Las Vegas
itself is the perfect entertainment.
"You don't have to plan entertainment every night," he said.
"The city does that for you.
"You can work until 6 p.m., go home, have dinner and catch a
show or stroll around town."
For more information about meetings and conventions in Las
Vegas, call the LVCVA at (702) 892-0711 and ask for the meetings