BY LORI SMITH
Las Vegas is changing.
The city hosts more meetings than any other destination and is the top large convention destination in North America. And while the glitter and glitz that have long defined it are still very much part of the Vegas experience, initiatives like the Downtown Project headed by Zappos’ president Tony Hsieh and the revitalization of Freemont Street are expanding what visitors can expect from the city and event planners can offer program participants.
Chris Meyer, vice-president of Global Business Sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), explained that while the city’s slogan is “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” what the city truly offers its visitors, whether they’re leisure travelers or convention delegates, is “adult freedom.” Gaming, he said, is number eight on the list of reasons people come to Las Vegas. Entertainment, dining and shopping are all ahead of spending time at the slots or blackjack table.
Meyer, who was in Toronto with a delegation of trade show clients, said visitors can’t get bored in Las Vegas because it offers so many different options now. As an example, he pointed to the explosion of great restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs that have opened in the city in the last six or seven years, transforming it into a foodie paradise. He also cited the Downtown Project’s Life is Beautiful festival, launched last year, which has opened the doors for more festivals.
Other openings and new projects in the city Meyer mentioned include:
- LINQ: A 300,000-sq.-ft., pedestrian-friendly, open-air shopping, dining and entertainment district located opposite Caesar’s Palace and between The Quad Resort & Casino and Flamingo Las Vegas. It is anchored by the world’s tallest observation wheel, the High Roller.
- The Cromwell: The Strip’s first boutique hotel has 188 rooms, offers an “intimate gaming experience,” and is home to celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis’ first restaurant (the window seats have great views of the Bellagio’s fountains).
- SLS Las Vegas: Opening August 23rd, this new 1,600-room property is located at Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue in the footprint of the former Sahara hotel and casino, one of the first hotels on the Strip.
- MGM GRAND – AEG Arena: Ground has been broken on this $375 million, 20,000-seat indoor venue, which is scheduled to open in Spring 2016.
- RESORTS WORLD LAS VEGAS: Genting Bhd, Southeast Asia’s biggest gaming group, announced in late May that construction of this $4 billion gaming resort would to begin in the second half of 2014.
- LVCVA’s GLOBAL BUSINESS DISTRICT: This multi-phase project includes renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center; creation of a convention district; and development of a transportation hub.