Who are your main competitors within the US and abroad?
Chicago, Orlando and San Diego have large hotels and a lot of convention space and a lot of things to do. In reality, I think that Las Vegas does stand apart. In terms of pricing, we offer tremendous value in terms of getting a good product for the price you pay. When compared with destinations in Asia, it’s a different experience that we offer, so it depends what a planner is looking for. Macau even, is difficult to compare – Macau has 22,000 hotel rooms, we have 150,000. It’s a different multi-dimensional experience.
What sort of challenges does Las Vegas face in attracting groups to the city?
The biggest challenge used to be perception, because there’s the entertainment, the gambling and hotels in Las Vegas. We used to get people saying, Las Vegas isn’t a place where you can do meetings and events. Now I think, that isn’t the case. You can have your meeting in the day, because so much of what makes Las Vegas so famous are the attractions that happen at night.
In fact, public perception of Las Vegas as a gambling destination has changed so much that the final presidential debate, which takes place two weeks before the election, is due to be held in Las Vegas.
In terms of hosting meetings in the city, research shows two things:
1) When trade shows and exhibitions are held in Las Vegas, they grow, because people want to come to Las Vegas.
2) The other thing is that people spend more time on the exhibition floor. Because there is so much to do after hours in the city, you have a captive audience, and delegates don’t feel the need to leave the show to visit attractions that other regions have, and may serve as a distraction.
The biggest challenge that we face currently is that hotel occupancies are running in the high 80s, early 90s, so having enough rooms can be tricky sometimes. Getting more flights into Las Vegas, especially internationally, would obviously boost our business. We currently have a direct service from Seoul, but other cities around Asia can get there via Los Angeles, from where it is an hour’s flight to Las Vegas.
How does Las Vegas cater to Chinese meetings and incentives?
The change in the visa regulations, which allows Chinese nationals to enter the United States with one visa over a period of 10 years, has brought in more groups from China. We have a number of conventions and trade shows, such as the Consumer Electronics Show, which attracts more than 15,000 visitors from China, and this has made life much easier for delegates who want to return year on year.
We are working with the resort community, because the Chinese visitor has different needs. Many of the hotels do a very good job at accommodating any language needs, restaurants, transaction services, by and large making sure their experience is comfortable. We are working on a programme to make the visitor experience more welcoming for Chinese visitors, and it’s a menu of requirements that we can offer hotels that are keen for Chinese business.
What’s coming up in the next few years?
There’s US$10 billion worth of planned development over the next four years, so there is a lot. Last year, we had 41 million visitors to Las Vegas. Restaurants continue to refresh, new shows keep coming, you can see Cirque du Soleil one night, Elton John the next, there’s just so much going on.