Event organisers put a lot of effort into creating special ingredients to spice up a programme, making it all the more memorable for award winners and delegates. If Las Vegas is chosen as a destination, then this part of their job is easy. Las Vegas is spicy enough for anybody and doesn’t need any help in setting up an exciting, never-to-be-forgotten experience.
In fact, the whole destination was created not much more than 50 years ago and has since developed with fun, entertainment and lasting stories to tell as its main agenda. It is very intent on continuing to maintain its position and reputation in the world, with as much as US$7bn of further investment planned for the coming years. It aims to ensure a flow of over 40m visitors per annum, attracted by the latest entertainment ideas and a temperate to warm climate.
I was lucky enough to be invited to sample what is on offer by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Las Vegas is many-faceted, so the travellers’ tales will vary just as much as the different levels of entertainment that different people seek when they are there. The major hotels are themed so that an organiser can choose the ambiance of Paris, or Venice or even Ancient Rome. They can offer the thrill of casino gambling, of course, or the wonder of stunning natural beauty. There are easy-going fast food outlets and award-winning restaurants overseen by renowned chefs. There are upmarket shopping malls, even inside the hotels, where the names read like a list of the world’s top designers.
There are cabarets and full-blown shows featuring the world’s most popular stars.
Our hosts gave us a small taste of everything – definitely leaving us with a hunger for more!
Getting to Las Vegas from Europe is uncomplicated though a lengthy flight. We few direct by British Airways from Gatwick to McCarran International Airport.
Las Vegas is a very busy metropolis, but even the road transfers are made interesting by the dazzling lights calling for attention everywhere you look.
We were accommodated at the Palazzo Resort, a wide high-rise sweep of a property with as many as 7,000 suites in Venetian style. It has a choice of over 30 different f&b outlets, specialising in American, French, Italian and Asian cuisines, as well as seafood and steaks.
Its meeting rooms, ballrooms and exhibition halls number over 350, with a total of 2.25m sq ft of space. Typical of Las Vegas, its statistics take your breath away.
We were taken out for the evening and by the time we had returned to The Palazzo for the night we had had cocktails at the Sparrow & Wolf niche restaurant and had dined at the magnificent MGM Grand resort hotel on the Strip, the unrivalled illuminated stretch of hospitality facilities at the heart of Vegas.
The following day proved what contrasting experiences Vegas has to offer groups. By 10am we were in a Maverick Helicopter looking down at the never-to-be-forgotten Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam and the hurtling waters of the Colorado River. With special permission, we were permitted land on a cliff top in territory belonging to the Hualapai Indians. It was a mind-blowing background in which to enjoy a light snack with a glass of Champagne.
Back at The Strip we then gathered at the Aria Resort for a 3-hour ‘foodie tour’, which continually challenged the palate and the taste buds, with the result that it took days to get back to being satisfied with normal food.
We were able then to walk to The Venetian, which is modelled so closely on the facilities in the Italian city that we could even enjoy a gondola ride through the streets of shops within the hotel. More wonders were next on our agenda. We transferred to the Bellagio Fountains at the Bellagio Hotel. This is a remarkable show where you are mesmerised by 200-ft high fountains in which the waters dance to light and every style of music. This is a free display that could be included in any group programme in Las Vegas.
Another item for an itinerary is a visit to the Neon Museum. This celebrates the use of the neon lights used so effectively in the city since its foundation. It covers an area of 2.25 acres featuring old neon signs and other artefacts that relate to the history and growth of the destination.
One of the main reasons for the timing of our visit during last year was the occasion of the LVCVA Global Meetings Day. This gave us the opportunity to listen to presentations about Vegas MICE facilities, to meet many of the managers of the venues and to network with senior executives. It was a busy two hours spent at the HyperX Esports Arena at Luxor. Just when you think you must have seen it all, you find yourself in another breath-taking Vegas feature. This is a multi-level venue with 30,000 sq ft of space devoted to every facility for the esports that are attracting more and more gamers worldwide – as well as bigger and bigger audiences. The Arena has a 50ft LED video wall, telescopic seating, gaming stations and a fully equipped studio.
Just before leaving for the airport to return to the UK, we were hosted to brunch at the new Vegas restaurant known as Primrose. This is located in the Park MGM project, which is a joint venture between the Sydell Group and MGM Resorts International.
We flew back to Gatwick still savouring the taste of food grilled on wood fires and with our heads still trying to get round all the unique larger-than-life MICE facilities that Las Vegas had shown to us.
Visit the LVCVA website at www.visitlasvegas.com