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Moving Boldly Into The Future:Our Mission to Stay at the Top

Written By:

Greta Seidman

"You don’t get to be number one by standing still,” says Rossi Ralenkotter, president/CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).

From employment to education, tourism matters a great deal to nearly every facet of life in Southern Nevada, and we cannot afford to stagnate. Forward motion for our core industry is paramount to our future economic success in the global marketplace. With plans for the Las Vegas Global Business District moving at a steady pace and key tourism indicators pointing in the right direction, Las Vegas is positioning itself to retain its standing as the number one trade show destination in North America – a title we have held for a record-setting 20 years – and increasing our market share of the convention and trade show industry. This challenge matters to the entire community.

In 2013, the tourism industry directly supported about 27 percent of the region’s workforce (approximately 219,000 workers). Convention and meeting attendance increased by 3.3 percent last year and directly supported around 35,700 jobs and $4.5 billion in economic output. In 2013, increases in both convention attendance and spending per convention visitor spurred a 9.4 percent rise in direct economic impact of the convention segment. When taking into account indirect and induced impacts, including suppliers of goods and services, job creation as a result of those required products and services, and employee spending in the local economy, these numbers reflect just how critical a robust tourism industry is to our region. Including indirect and induced impacts, convention travelers supported more than 61,000 jobs and $7.4 billion in total economic output. This comprises a significant share of the total economic impact of tourism on our region in 2013 – a staggering $45.2 billion, 47 percent of our region’s gross product and 375,700 jobs, nearly half of the total workforce.

“Our goal is to increase our meetings and conventions market share from 12 to 16 percent and that growth overall means more jobs,” Ralenkotter says. “More trade show and convention delegates directly impact local businesses and create and sustain local jobs because these visitors typically spend more money during their stay than the leisure traveler. That spending fuels our economy.” Through the ambitious, innovative and exciting plans for the Las Vegas Global Business District, our region is setting into motion plans to assert its dominance in the convention and meetings industry.

Increasing this market share positions the Las Vegas community well. Nevada State Senator Michael Roberson says, “It seems good for the business community that we can truly create a global marketplace in this area and attract international businesses that will leverage our leading position in trade shows to grow businesses and create jobs.” Bolstering our core industry is a source of strength for the entire workforce in Southern Nevada, according to Danny Thompson, executive secretary treasurer for the Nevada State AFL-CIO. “The ability to attract new trade shows, grow our existing shows, stay competitive and not lose market share means we are growing the economy here and that is a job creator. That drives confidence in our economic future and investment across Southern Nevada takes off. That’s a good thing for all of us.”

The Las Vegas Global Business District project has three major components: first, a major renovation, expansion and modernization of the existing Las Vegas Convention Center and the creation of a convention district campus; second, establishing an international business center that leverages and expands Las Vegas’ existing World Trade Center designation to increase and leverage our international business opportunities; and third, creating a centralized transportation hub that improves connectivity and efficiency between the resort corridor, the convention center and airport. Speaker of the Nevada State Assembly Marilyn Kirkpatrick asserts the importance of sustaining the strength of the tourism industry in Southern Nevada. “Tourism already accounts for almost half of all jobs in Southern Nevada. Working men and women benefit from the health and growth of the tourism economy. When the LVCVA builds this project, it will propel our economy forward and create much needed jobs.”

The reimagining and expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center extends far beyond an additional one million square feet of meeting space. It also includes significant upgrades to existing technology to keep pace with significant trade shows like CES. “Las Vegas is the world’s best convention city,” says Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. “Its infrastructure and technology must evolve to attract business travelers, as well as new business. The International CES is a major global technology event and our 150,000 plus attendees are big users of technology who expect always-on access to their devices around the clock.” Other amenities planned for the expansion include new food and beverage outlets, outdoor public and gathering spaces and neighborhood enhancements. Speaker Kirkpatrick says, “The forward thinking vision of the LVCVA on this Global Business District really puts Las Vegas in the driver’s seat to grow our existing shows…and attract new shows, both national and internationally.”

The benefit of expanding Las Vegas’ World Trade Center and building a dedicated facility has the potential to multiply our presence in the international business marketplace. Las Vegas is the only convention center in the United States with a World Trade Center designation. This status provides an incentive for international business travelers to visit us and gives our city credibility and validation as a center for conducting global business. “It will be a permanent global marketplace where local companies and international corporations – like the Fortune 1000 – can interact with the tens of thousands of businesses that come here for shows and conventions,” explains Ralenkotter. “The world’s most innovative and influential companies exhibit here every year launching new products and ideas. This year, International CES had 20,000 new product launches alone. Imagine the possibilities for our community if we have a dedicated facility where global companies expand the business that happens on the trade show floor.”

The third pivotal piece of the Global Business District is the centralized transportation hub. According to a study from Applied Analysis, having our visitors stuck in traffic costs the Las Vegas community about $242 million each year. The LVCVA has established a steering committee to address the challenges of our current transportation systems within the resort corridor and other areas of high volume traffic, such as the convention center and the airport. The committee includes stakeholders from McCarran International Airport, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), the Nevada Department of Transportation, Las Vegas Monorail, taxi cab and limousine companies, resort partners and others. Tom Cindric, producer of the World of Concrete show (which has generated approximately $700 million in local nongaming economic impact since 2005 and an estimated $63 million in 2014 alone), says, “Our customers, both domestic and international, find Las Vegas to be a very welcoming destination with accommodations and activities to meet a variety of budgets.” He does, however, identify transportation as an opportunity for the area. To address these ongoing challenges, Ralenkotter explains, “Our goal is to develop a comprehensive transportation plan, including a multimodal, seamless transportation experience throughout the destination for visitors and for our tourism industry employees.” Areas of potential interest include blending traditional transportation, such as cars, buses and taxis, with options like expanding the monorail or implementing a light-rail system.

These advancements aren’t just a vanity project. Some of Las Vegas’ peer cities are taking major strides in augmenting their convention services. Chicago, Orlando, Phoenix and New Orleans have recently completed or are in the process of improving their convention services. San Diego is investing $750 million in adding 380,000 square feet and 500 hotel rooms by next year. San Francisco recently announced a $500 million investment in its convention space over the next four years. Boston is considering a $1 billion upgrade to its existing convention center. “We learned an important lesson a few months back when the National Finals Rodeo was considering moving to another city. That was a critical reminder that other cities are actively working to lure away our business, and we have to continue to stay ahead of the competition,” asserts Ralenkotter. Making these improvements and enhancements to our core industry’s infrastructure sends a strong statement that Las Vegas isn’t budging from its top-seeded spot in the convention and meetings market. We are doing what it takes to stay ahead.

As this game-changing project takes shape and advances, the LVCVA will convene the entire community to engage in the planning process and stay apprised of changes and updates as the plans progress. “We need you to be a part of the dialogue and be involved as we move forward,” Ralenkotter says. “This is a community project and its economic impact will benefit us all.” You can join the conversation at