Las Vegas is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, in large part because it has so many inherent entertainment options and vast array of meeting spaces. When you’re planning a conference or off-site meeting though, the allure of Vegas can become the problem, as it can quickly turn into distractions for your attendees. After planning more than 45 events in Las Vegas throughout the past 14 years, I can tell you from experience there is a way to take advantage of the destination while still accomplishing your event’s goals. Here are my top four tips for doing just that.
1. Be Thoughtful About the Date(s)
It makes sense that tons of events are happening in Vegas because it’s where so many people want to be. As a result, you’ll need to be careful about your date selection and act quickly, as the restaurants and hotels can get fully booked when there are multiple other large events in town. If a group wants to be there during peak event season of October through May, it’s important that you check the other major events happening at the convention center. The Consumer Electronics Show, for example, is held every January and takes over the city, leading to few hotel rooms and sold-out shows. Outside of those dates, the majority of travelers are there for leisure and you can book as few as two to three months out from your chosen dates and still find rooms. Las Vegas has one of the largest inventories of rooms in the U.S. as long as you time it appropriately.
2. Take Geography Into Account When Choosing A Hotel
If your group needs to be in Las Vegas during peak months, I recommend looking for hotels far from the convention center. This will both increase the potential availability and ensure your guests don’t get swept up in additional traffic or other activities happening near that site. Even better, consider taking your group away from the heart of The Strip and the inherent temptation of casinos, bars and restaurants, and other non-sanctioned amusements. For example, when planning a multi-day seminar for Dior, we took the group to Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa, about 15 minutes off the Las Vegas Strip, for its luxury appeal and location. We took advantage of the attractions on the Strip for a night out after the day’s meetings were over. You may prefer a hotel where guests don’t have to walk through the casino to get to their rooms. Some great examples are the Delano, MGM, Vdara and Aria. Even better, you can choose a hotel without a casino at all, such as the Waldorf Astoria.
3. Budget for Additional City-Specific Expenses
When it comes to event costs, Las Vegas is on par with New York City and other major metropolitan areas. However, what separates it is the fact that so much of the city’s operations and laborers are part of unions. For instance, every trade show and event requires a drayage charge but in Las Vegas this can be up to 30% higher than other cities because of the union regulations. Working around the unions isn’t an option either as they are an inherent part of the city and most hotels are also part of the union. Factoring these city-specific costs into your budget will allow you to better allocated money toward the rest of the guest experience.
4. Bring the Attractions to You
To avoid losing your guests to the allure of Cirque du Soleil, the casinos or the city’s famed showgirls, incorporate those elements into your event plans. This can begin during the day by staging a mock poker tournament with your guests split into teams competing against one another. Bring in a professional to teach them a few tricks. Impersonators, magicians, illusionists, and humorists can also be great city-appropriate additions to your main keynote session ensuring to keep them engaged with the messaging you are presenting as well as a bit of a break between breakout sessions. evening activities once the meetings are done for the day. Other memorable options I’ve staged for clients include The Grand Canyon helicopter tour, where you can have a picnic with a Instagram-worthy view and participating in The Star Hill Ranch’s “Live Like a Cowboy” experience. There’s a lot to keep in mind when planning a destination conference or event that’s both productive and fun, but with these tips, it’s possible to utilize the full breadth of what Las Vegas can offer groups without losing your guests' attention.
Valerie Bihet has more than 20 years of experience in the management, design and production of special events that communicate and achieve her client’s objectives. Originally from Paris, Bihet founded Vibe, an event design and destination management company, in Miami in 2004.