Anyone who drives along Desert Inn Road between Swenson and Paradise in Las Vegas on a regular basis has witnessed firsthand the dramatic transformation that has occurred there. In conjunction with the 1.3 million-square-foot expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, a structure housing meeting rooms now spans that section of the busy thoroughfare. An additional 1 million square feet of exhibit space sits across Desert Inn Road from the existing convention center structure, bringing the center’s total exhibit space to 2 million square feet. When pre-function areas, restaurants, meeting rooms and other service facilities are included, the Las Vegas Convention Center will house a total of 3.2 million square feet when its south hall expansion is complete in November.
In 2000, 35.8 million people visited Las Vegas. More than 3.9 million traveled here specifically for conventions and trade shows, pumping $4.3 billion into the local economy. Through May of this year, convention attendance is up 13.8 percent from last year, while the non-gaming economic impact of the delegates has risen an impressive 22 percent. As a rule, convention delegates spend more per person than leisure visitors and fill hotel rooms during the critical off-peak and midweek periods. For these reasons, the growth of the Las Vegas convention industry represents one of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s top objectives.
Currently, nearly 125,000 hotel rooms and 6.2 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space allow Las Vegas to accommodate some of the meetings industry’s largest conventions and tradeshows. Time and time again, Las Vegas rents more exhibit space than any other convention destination and hosts more of the Tradeshow Week 200 — the largest shows in the world — than any other venue. The expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center will allow the facility to house large shows such as COMDEX, CES and MAGIC under one roof for the first time. That’s no small feat, considering that during COMDEX the convention center can expect to host 60,000 people on each of the five show days — the equivalent of the attendance at the Super Bowl.
Charged with booking not only the newly enlarged Las Vegas Convention Center but also Cashman Center (also operated by the LVCVA), the LVCVA’s Meetings Division actually serves as the clearinghouse for convention and meeting bookings countywide. Conventions, along with special events and international tourism, are a primary target for the LVCVA’s marketing initiatives. In addition to booking space for the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Meetings Division annually sends out more than 2,400 leads to the area’s hotel community, allowing the properties to solicit the business that meets their criteria in terms of room availability and function space. High demand, resulting in hundreds of potential bookinfs being turned away, helped precipitate the need for the south hall expansion. Convention bookings for the new facility, as well as the entire convention center, continue at a brisk pace.
Earlier this year, Mandalay Resort Group announced plans to open a 1.8 million-square-foot convention center, adding to their existing 190,000-square-foot meetings and exhibit venue. When that project is completed in 2002, Las Vegas will be to home three of the five largest convention facilities in the country and 9.3 million square feet of meetings and exhibit space citywide. With a dedicated meetings staff working on behalf of the entire destination, the LVCVA makes continued growth of the convention industry a priority, thereby ensuring that Las Vegas’ convention facilities stay busy and its hotel and motel rooms remain filled.