travellers either love or loathe Las Vegas. But either way, it is likely that at
some point they will attend a meeting, tradeshow or conference in this desert fantasyland
of gargantuan hotels, gigantic convention halls, cavernous casinos, huge meals and
In fact, Las
Vegas experienced a hangover of its own during the recent economic downturn between
2008 and 2010, when many companies snubbed its excesses if favour of holding more
sensible, less flashy meetings elsewhere. But that did not last for long.
4.8 million delegates attended meetings and conventions in Las Vegas, a 9%
increase on 2010. So far this year, the number of corporate meetings and events
booked in the Nevada city has jumped 16.3% compared to the same period in 2011,
helping Las Vegas retain its title as the number
one trade show destination in North America for the 18th year in a row.
also drawing the corporate crowd back with a combination of good value and
convenience. The average hotel rate, for example, still hovers around a
reasonable $100 per night, and there are around 150,000 rooms (many recently
renovated) from which to choose.
heated competition among airlines at its McCarran International Airport, fares remain low and flights are plentiful.
And with a high desert location, weather-related flight delays are rarely a
the airport christened its massive new $2.4 billion Terminal 3, which includes
seven international gates, a slick multi-carrier business class lounge and an international arrivals hall
that can process twice as many passengers per hour as before. McCarran now
offers nonstops to nearly every major city in North America, as well as long
hauls to cities as far away as London and Seoul. Still, there is no direct rail link from the
airport to the city, and the 15-minute taxi ride costs $20 to $25.
recession ended a decade of large-scale hotel/casino development along the famous
Las Vegas Strip — the 7km stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard where most of the
city’s large hotels, casinos and attractions are located. These days, the focus
has turned inward, with the city’s biggest hotels working on major facelifts and
renovations — so be sure to ask for a renovated room when you make your reservation
or when you check in.
3,933-room Bellagio, famous for its in-house
art collection that ranges from colourful Chihuly hand-blown glass sculptures to
the current Claude Monet exhibition, is putting the finishing touches on its full
remodel of all rooms and suites. The prestigious 3,690-room Caesars Palace is in the process of
transforming one of its existing hotel towers into the The Nobu Hotel,
a Japanese-themed, 81-room boutique hotel designed by architect David Rockwell.
Opening later this winter, the hotel will include an outpost of the famous Nobu Restaurant chain.
elegant 424-room Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, which is tucked away on the upper
floors of the Mandalay Bay complex on the southern end of the Strip, will complete
a total re-do of all its rooms in December, and has remained open for the duration
of its renovations.
is no need for a re-do at the over-the-top, 2,716-room Wynn Las Vegas and the 2,034-room Encore next door, which opened in 2005 and 2006 respectively
and share the Strip’s only golf course.
Another relative newcomer among the city’s most elegant hotels is the 392-room Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, which opened in December 2010 as
part of the multi-billion-dollar CityCenter complex — the largest privately-funded
construction project in US history.
The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, opened in 2010, was the last major, new-from-the-ground-up
hotel to be built on the Strip — and as testament
to the tough times in which it opened, developers of the super-popular
hotel/casino defaulted on their loan to Deutsche Bank, which now owns it. The
investment is paying off, though, as droves of young partiers now flock to the
hotel, known for its large rooms, many with small kitchens and outdoor verandas
(rare in this town), and its Marquee Nightclub — one of the hottest on the Strip.
Cosmopolitan began to draw in the young, hip crowd, other developers quickly
took notice and initiated re-dos focused on a younger demographic. For example,
The Delano Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay -- sister to the mod, design-driven Delano South Beach in Miami -- will renovate, re-design and
re-brand the 1,100-room tower that is currently THEhotel in late 2013. Also, the Palms
Casino Resort and
the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino are
revamping to maintain their trendy vibe in the face of mounting competition.
the biggest celebrity chefs have established outposts in Las Vegas, which has
helped elevate food quality throughout the city. But despite the big culinary
names, the sizzle here is in the scene more than the cuisine. For example, at
the new two-level Gordon Ramsey Steak, guests enter through a “Chunnel”-themed
entrance and dine on aged beef, fish and chips and shepherd’s pie under a giant
Union Jack mural.
such as caviar parfait, phyllo-crusted sole and lobster pot pie are the stars
at Michael Mina, located in the conservatory at the
Bellagio. Enjoy meaty favourites such as maple-brined pork chops, Colorado lamb
or charcoal grilled filet mignon in a clubby atmosphere at Charlie Palmer Steak in the Four Seasons. And Wolfgang Puck
Pizzeria and Cucina inside the giant CityCenter complex is a great spot to
people watch while enjoying a casual business lunch of rustic Italian fare such
as handmade pasta, mushroom pizza with béchamel and fontina cheese or penne
For a special
event, ask for the private “pagoda table”, which floats over a koi pond at Mizumi, inside the elegant Wynn Las Vegas, home to the
city’s best Japanese robatayaki, teppanyaki and sushi.
Off the clock
One of the
most common refrains you will hear from convention delegates in Las Vegas goes
something like this: “I’ve been here for two days and I haven’t been outside
once.” Due to the size and inter-connectedness of hotel lobbies, casinos and
convention facilities, you can walk for hours and never see the light of day or
get a breath of fresh, unprocessed air. Las Vegas casinos are designed to keep
patrons indoors gambling, shopping or dining, so when you have a chance, look
for the hard-to-find exit signs and get outside for a walk up and down Las
sights include the spectacularly choreographed (and free) “Fountains of Bellagio” performance, which takes place
every hour in front of the Bellagio hotel/casino on the Strip. Starting next
year, visitors can walk to two 500ft observation wheels (similar to the London Eye) for dramatic views: SkyVue Las Vegas (located on the south end of the Strip) and the more centrally located High Roller
in the Linq Center shopping centre, adjacent to Caesar’s Palace.
If you grow
weary of the flashy, plastic Strip, grab a cab and step back in time with a
visit to the place where it all began: downtown Las Vegas, located a few miles to
the north. In this fun, walkable part of town, you can enjoy a vintage
experience and maybe even encounter a few locals. The giant online shoe
retailer Zappos.com (with 1,200 employees) is leading the charge of local businesses
relocating back into the historic core of the city. Downtown is also where you
will find the brand new Smith Center for the Performing Arts, home to the Las Vegas Philharmonic
and the Nevada Ballet Theatre.
Don’t do this!
in Las Vegas. While most business travellers know that tipping is the custom throughout the US, it is even
more important in Las Vegas if you want to ensure promptness. A tip to the
front desk clerk at the hotel or maitre d’ at a restaurant can result in a room
upgrade or a “see and be seen” table in a top restaurant. So be sure to account
for heavier-than-usual tipping in your budget, and you will quickly discover
that a few dollars here or there can make your visit much more pleasant in this