It's all relative: Family reunions becoming big business

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InsightMaybe the mantra about Las Vegas not being a family destination is all wrong.

According to a recent article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, family reunions have become a stable market, especially during the slow summer months and particularly for smaller hotel-casinos and locals-oriented properties.

Actually, the city has aggressively courted the family reunion market for decades; my family held its reunion here in 1992, with the Golden Nugget serving as the host hotel.

"It has become a lucrative market for us," Michael Toney, vice president of corporate hotel sales for Station Casinos, told the Review-Journal. There are 18 properties under the Station Casinos brand, including Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock resort and spa. "We do quite a few family reunions, as a matter of fact. During the summer months, they become our bread and butter on weekends."

As they struggle with recession-impacted occupancy rates and reduced revenues, an increasing number of Strip megaresorts are jumping into the fray, with the Flamingo, Luxor, Excalibur, Circus Circus and Caesars Palace among the most popular family reunion locations.

"Reunions have been popular for Las Vegas, but not everyone ... took that business as seriously, due to the availability of the more lucrative corporate market," Valerie Moon, director of sales and convention services for Luxor and Excalibur, told the Review-Journal.

The same things that draw leisure visitors, conventioneers and business travelers to Vegas -- affordable flights and room rates -- also draw families. In the article, Veronica Smiley, director of marketing for Harrah's Entertainment, also touted the many available activities.

"I do think the diverse entertainment is really key," Smiley said. "There might be a younger part of the group who wants to hit the clubs while Grandma and Grandpa want to go see Donny and Marie. And you get a lot of value for your money here, and that's what a lot of people are looking for these days."

The article noted that Harrah's, through its year-old Total Experience program, offers free concierge service to guests who book five rooms or more, with a hotel representatives who organize "outings for the family, make restaurant reservations, book spa visits and perform other duties," according to Smiley.

The Sahara, Tropicana, Orleans (off Strip) and Aliante (in North Las Vegas), among others, have family reunions booked through the remainder of the year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's website.

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