Michael Massari, chief sales officer at Caesars Entertainment, points out many casinos along the Las Vegas Boulevard don’t have locks. “They were never meant to close,” he says. Caesars Palace, for instance, never shut its doors from its opening date in 1966 until this spring, when COVID-19 shuttered Las Vegas for three months. “It was eerie to see the Las Vegas Strip closed,” Massari says.
At long last, many iconic Vegas properties are now open. It’s a moment to rejoice. Sure, Caesars, MGM and Wynn locations can now make money again. But just as important is that hospitality workers are back serving others. “All of us have been busy the last 12 weeks—maybe busier than ever,” says Massari. “But we weren’t doing what fills our buckets. It was really hard.”
With the lights on to guide travelers and groups to the end of the tunnel, Massari put the coronavirus in perspective and what’s next for the events industry.
How would you compare this to other challenges?
I get concerned I’m overweighting the present because that’s easy to do, but this has to be the most difficult situation we have ever encountered. I think that’s because this is something we really never thought through. We didn’t think about the repercussions about closing our businesses and how to reopen them.
Caesars Forum was scheduled to open days before the lockdown. That must have been a gut punch.
We had a stacked calendar. The grand opening was going to be March 18; we had a 5,000-group corporate event, the NFL Draft and several big industry events. It all went up in smoke. What was meant to be the crowning achievement for many people on our team ended up going away.
How do you cope with that?
The reality is we didn’t build the building for 12 weeks. We built it for 50 years. We still have a stacked calendar and are still exceeding all of our expectations. We’ll host the NFL Draft in 2022, not 2020. All those industry events are still going to occur. Many of the corporate events have rebooked. It was a difficult time for us, but it was a difficult time for everybody. We were no worse off than anyone else.
It didn’t happen the way we wanted it to at the beginning but it’s going to be what we want for an extended period of time.
You’re “Mr. Face-to-Face Events.” Do you have any doubt they will come back?
I think you’ll see pretty quickly events will need to take place. Events are one of the best, if not the best, ways to grow your business and your organization. In difficult times, growth is more important to come by and people will figure this out.
How do you remain so confident with virtual events popping up everywhere?
Telephones and zoom have been around some time. They have proven to be enhancements to face-to-face interactions, not replacements. The human condition has a gravitational pull toward face-to-face interactions. Everyone I’ve talked to realizes how important that is after having it dramatically reduced for 12 weeks. You’ll see an increase in the desire to have face-to-face interactions, not a decrease. You just have to balance it with safety. There is zero chance the world goes on without face-to-face interaction.