When the meetings industry meets in Las Vegas, news is in the air. Destinations and hotels took the opportunity to talk with event professionals to make numerous announcements. The Smart Meetings team walked the floors and brought back these reports.

MorePlanner Insights from IMEX Day 1

Bigger and Healthier

ALHI President and CEO Mike Dominguez predicted that more consolidation is coming in 2020 and shared his optimistic view for the economy at a media breakfast at the new Skyview Suite at The Mirage. He hinted at new partnerships coming to the global sales organization for independent hotels, including one with Delos for Stay Well rooms and meeting space, and Cirque for creative experiences. “This will be exclusive in the luxury market,” he said.

Hilton Gathers

Nicole Tilzer, director of global brand marketing with Hilton Hotels, explained the company’s roll-out of reimagined lobby bars that would be unique to each property to bring out the local flavor of the destination. “We are bringing energy back to the space and drawing people out of their rooms to socialize,” she said. Look for the roll-out to start at Hilton Austin in Texas and Hilton Cleveland Downtown.

Many Happy Returns to London

At a breakfast meeting, ExCel London’s James Rees, executive director for conferences and events, showcased the many selling points of this venue of more than 1 million sq. ft. They included a record 75 percent repeat business for major events (including gatherings by Salesforce and other major U.S. companies), meeting planner materials “translated” into American English (square feet instead of meters, for example), transparent pricing, the current favorable exchange rate for the U.S. dollar versus  the English pound, and a commitment to sustainability that embraces the United Nations Sustainability Development goals.

The British government, anticipating Brexit, is doubling down on support for attracting big international events, he said. One of these will be the first indoor/outdoor eGrand Prix, a race of Formula One-type electric cars.

Tracy Halliwell, director of tourism, conventions and major events for London & Partners, referenced London’s 1,700 event venues, 143,000 hotel guest rooms (with nearly 10,000 more being added this year), cultural diversity, talent pool (including 135,000 tech sector workers) and creative energy. London, she said, is committed to being carbon neutral by 2050.

She also highlighted new developments, such as:

  • Royal Docks, where nearly $150 billion is being invested
  • Kings Cross, where Facebook, Google and other tech companies are clustered
  • East Bank and Olympic Park, an emerging cultural quarter
  • White City, the former BBC headquarters
  • Illuminated River, a project to light up the Thames at night

Strategic Celebrations

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) highlighted its ninth year as the exclusive IMEX strategic partner. Among those on the dais was Annette Gregg, a 25-year veteran in the meeting and event industry who was recently named MPI’s senior vice president of experience. In this role, she oversees event and education teams.

Other announcements included a collaboration between MPI and International Live Events Association (ILEA) that will bring ILEA members a new learning platform that features 60 educational sessions. An MPI Experiential Event series is also launching for senior meeting planners who “want to stretch themselves,” said Paul Van Deventer, MPI president and CEO. In the first offering, planners will go behind the scenes of the 2019 Country Music Awards in Nashville in November to learn how to produce a music event.

Darren Temple, chief operating officer for MPI, noted that during the past 12 months, more than 8,000 professionals have participated in MPI Academy education, which offered them nearly 45,000 potential clock hours.

This spring, MPI Academy began an inclusive event design certificate program and debuted an event marketing certificate program in partnership with Cvent. A Women in Leadership training course examines the “why” behind the lag in female executives. In collaboration with University of Virginia Darden School of Business Executive Education, MPI now offers a master’s degree program that incorporates experiential learning, simulations and industry partner mentoring.

As a charity that supports the growth of members and the industry as a whole, MPI Foundation is celebrating its 35th anniversary. During those years, it has distributed $4.2 million to communities and the meetings industry.

ICCA Takes Off in Houston

International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) reported that its 58th congress, to be held Oct. 27–30 at Marriott Marquis Houston, will offer reduced rates for members of Visit Houston to attend the NASA-themed event, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo’s launch. ICCA’s new president, James Rees, said he intends to urge increased sustainability for member events.

Destination News

Las Vegas has been chosen as the host destination for the 27th World Routes Development Forum, the world’s largest commercial aviation event, in September 2021.

In Columbus, Ohio, Greater Columbus Convention Center completed a $140 million renovation and expansion, adding 373,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space. It is also the first convention center in the world to become Certified Sensory Inclusive, which provides a more inclusive experience for guests with sensory challenges.

Elsewhere in Ohio’s capital city, a 468-room expansion of Hilton Columbus Downtown, a headquarters hotel of the convention center, will bring the number of convention hotel rooms on the property to 1,000 and total meeting space to 75,000 sq. ft. A new tower, opening in 2022, will offer a rooftop event space.

The Fives, the largest event venue in downtown Columbus with a dedicated rooftop space, opens next year. North Market near the convention center is getting an 11,000-square-foot expansion, including 4,400 sq. ft. of event space and 3,300 sq. ft. of outdoor space.

New York City boasts a $1.5 billion expansion of Javits Center, which will be complete by 2021, as well as the opening of Statue of Liberty Museum, Empire Outlets—the first outlet shopping center in the five boroughs, on the Staten Island waterfront—and the TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). On September 27, NYC & Company, the destination marketing organization as well as the convention and visitors bureau for the five boroughs of New York City, will host is first-ever Climate Week NYC event at Javits Center. In October, the Museum of Modern Art will reopen after a 40,000-square-foot expansion.

Newport Beach, California, debuted a new campaign emphasizing VIP treatment and elevated experiences for meeting planners, regardless of meeting size. “Today we put our stake in the sand that no other destination dedicates as much time, resources and talent to the small meetings market as Visit Newport Beach,” said Michelle Donahue, vice president of sales for Visit Newport Beach.

Atlantic City, New Jersey, welcomed two new hotels in June of 2018: Ocean Casino Resort and Hard Rock Casino Hotel Atlantic City add 2,500 new guest rooms to a citywide inventory of 17,500 rooms. In addition, Atlantic City Convention Center was awarded LEED Gold certification.

Sacramento, California, is in the midst of a convention center expansion that will encompass SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center and leave SAFE Credit Union Convention Center with 240,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and a 15,000-square-foot outdoor plaza to take advantage of the gorgeous summer evenings. With more than 300 nearby restaurants, the booming farm-to-fork foodie scene will be accessible for attendees to the downtown location.

New Zealand is attracting incentive groups with an “intrepid luxury” approach, which features the Tiaki Promise to encourage respect for the nation’s culture, land and fellow travelers. A strategy is in place to steer visitors away from gateways and into outlying and less-traveled areas of the country to avoid over-tourism.