Las Vegas bets on trade shows to inspire revival

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Thousands of people will head to Las Vegas next week, a city synonymous with hedonism to watch the cement dry up.

Steve Hill has participated in his first concrete world event for nearly 40 years, but his excitement about the trade show has never been greater than this time. This is not just the prospect of seeing the latest mixer truck or watching a concrete finishing competition; WOC 2021 will mark the return of the conference to a city whose economy depends on conferences and an industry that strives to replicate its appeal online.

After decades of working in the ready-mixed concrete industry, Hill is now the CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which is tasked with attracting tourists to the Nevada gambling center and will host the Informa The owner of the convention center of the exhibition.

Last year, with the closure of casinos and exhibition halls by the coronavirus, the total number of visitors to Las Vegas fell by 55% to 19 million. However, although the occupancy rate on the Las Vegas Strip has doubled since January to two-thirds of the usual level, since April last year, the LVCVA has recorded zero or “unavailable” conference attendance “.

This is about to change. Las Vegas lifted restrictions on large gatherings on June 1, and more than 40% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, and event organizers who have been struggling with online meetings in the past 14 months are confident enough Resume face-to-face trade shows.

“The recovery is faster than we thought or even hoped,” Hill said. As few international tourists fly to Las Vegas and the event is postponed to the busiest time of the year in the construction industry, the attendance of WOC 2021 will almost certainly be lower than the usual 60,000, but it will be an important one The first performance, Hill described as surprisingly strong.

Used in the Las Vegas Convention Center Pandemic Work was suspended to complete the $989 million expansion project, and the Hill site now leases more space from July 1 than ever before. The planned activities range from the nightclub and bar show at the end of this month to the Water Quality Association conference in July.

Each is important to Nevada. According to estimates, in a normal year, the Congress contributed $11.5 billion to a state with a gross domestic product of approximately $178 billion and its most famous city. The state’s unemployment rate in April was 9 %. second only to Los Angeles among 50 metropolitan areas.

Unemployment rate (%) line chart shows that the Las Vegas labor market has been hit hard by the pandemic

Before the pandemic, Las Vegas could count on leisure travelers to increase its casino occupancy rate to more than 95% on most weekends, but rely on conference attendees to keep 150,000 hotel rooms full on weekdays.

Hervé Sedky, CEO of events group Emerald, plans to host 90 events in August, almost all of which will be held in Las Vegas. He said that from the Pizza Fair to the Antique Jewelry and Watch Fair, they will host the most events in the company’s history, even though the number of participants is only one-third to half of the pre-pandemic level.

Sedky observed that Las Vegas “never closed completely,” following Florida and Texas, and its reopening encouraged other cities such as Chicago and New York to follow suit.

The Javits Center in Manhattan, which claims to be the busiest convention center in the United States, was converted into a field hospital for Covid-19 patients last spring and recently became the city’s largest vaccination site. However, by August, it plans to resume activities.

Sedky believes that cities’ desire to reopen trade shows reflects their need to stimulate an economy that is sideways due to the pandemic. “Over 80% [our] Customers are small businesses. .. The absence of a trade show is really a problem for them. When we consider reopening the economy, it is important for these companies to start business again,” he said.

Organizers such as Informa and Emerald moved many of their events online last year in an attempt to keep the business alive, but “virtual exhibitions did not generate the kind of value our customers are looking for,” Sedky admits.

He said that the information content of the virtual exhibition is relatively popular, but “copying the part of the exhibition site online does not work. It is scary.”

Emerald revisited the face-to-face event in January and hosted a surfing industry show in Orlando, Florida. Attendance was about half of what it was before Covid-19, but exhibitors gave enthusiastic reviews, reporting that it brought in a large number of orders.

Sedky admitted that the 3,500 buyers present were “not so happy”: “They complained that they didn’t watch enough.”

Such experiments allow the industry to hone safety protocols and reassure customers who are still nervous about the risk of infection.

Surf Expo has a plexiglass screen, a no-handshake policy, and a health and safety “ambassador” that enforces a zero-tolerance mask policy. Sedky recalls: “We had three people arguing about whether to wear masks: we threw them away.

Hill’s venue has also introduced contactless registration and will display food in a different way, he said, although several nearby casinos have restarted buffets that are synonymous with Las Vegas. However, World of Concrete 2021 will not require participants to provide proof of vaccination.

The pandemic has severely damaged the financial health of many of the largest companies in the industry. Reed Exhibitions owner RELX’s activity revenue plummeted from 1.3 billion pounds to 362 million pounds last year.

But Reid Say Last month, the vast majority of its customers have postponed their reservations for 2020 to 2021. In March, it attracted nearly 3,000 buyers and 170 exhibitors at the International Jewelers Fair in Miami Beach-more than normal The level is 10% higher.

One pattern that has emerged is that travel restrictions mean that domestic shows in the United States and elsewhere are better than those that rely on international tourists.

Hill said this dynamic has also contributed to a faster recovery in the Las Vegas tourism business: With so few Americans flying abroad, more people choose to rest in Las Vegas. He pointed out that the number of tourists driving to the city to gamble instead of flying has exceeded the level of 2019.

With the unemployment rate still so high in a city that is overly dependent on tourists, Las Vegas is now stepping up its efforts to attract more tourists back by promoting the city’s long-standing risk-avoidanceism to make fun of gamblers and conference audiences.

A new advertising campaign launched on television stations across the United States euphemistically invites visitors to embrace the “adult freedom that only Las Vegas can provide.”

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