The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA) launched a new ad campaign this month targeting the meetings and convention market with fun, high-wattage visuals that haven’t been promoted on the group side since early 2008.
Marketing Las Vegas to the corporate market was a rather unenviable task during the recession when showgirls and champagne fell out of vogue while so many people were losing their houses and jobs. The LVCVA tried everything it could to downplay all of the sexy stuff on the Strip, while promoting instead the city’s value, convenience and infrastructure to meeting planners.
The whole “Sin City” and “What Happens in Vegas…” positioning was nowhere to be seen, replaced instead with “Vegas Means Business.”
That was the great irony of the situation at the time. Government and corporate leaders were fearful of spending dollars anywhere that the public perceived as frivolous for serious meetings. And yet, Las Vegas provides the highest return on investment in the country, especially for large conventions off peak, due to the sheer volume of available airlift, convention space and upscale hotel inventory in a tight geographical package.
Following a precipitous decline from 6.3 million convention delegates in 2006 to 4.47 million in 2010, business is now back on the upswing with 5.1 million meeting attendees visiting in 2013.
Because of that, the LVCVA is comfortable reminding people that it’s okay to enjoy yourself after the meetings are over, and “enjoy yourself” is open to interpretation.
We spoke with Chris Meyer, VP of global business sales at LVCVA, to learn more about how the bureau is targeting the meetings market in today’s evolving business climate.
Skift: What is the message behind the new meetings-centric ad campaign?
Chris Meyer: The message is basically we’re not hiding from being a fun destination. We’re a serious place to do business, but at the end of the day you can have fun in Las Vegas. The way we’ve structured the ads, we’ve got entertainers doing unique things that are unique to Las Vegas. We wanted to set ourselves apart from the standard destination ads that show a picture of a hotel or someone in a meeting room. We’re Las Vegas, so we’re going to throw a little more edginess out there.
Skift: What is the brand promise of Las Vegas for meeting planners?
Chris Meyer: We deliver on the brand promise of adult freedom, and your version of adult freedom is different than my version of adult freedom. If I’m coming to Las Vegas and I’m a foodie, I may be looking to engage all of the celebrity chefs and dine in each one of their restaurants. Your version might be you want to go to all of the spas in many of the different resorts.
A big portion of our brand promise, almost 14% of our visitation, is meetings. The value proposition that we deliver to event planners in all levels and all price points is tremendous.
Skift: Okay, but when you say “adult freedom,” that is going to have a salacious connotation for some people. Is that by design, intimating that there’s always that wild side of Vegas if attendees are looking for it?
Chris Meyer: I think that some people’s version of fun is different than other people’s version of fun, and we’re not going to hide from being a fun destination. What we are going to shout out is that we’re an adult destination.
Skift: We’re calling you from the Downtown Project area in the old part of Las Vegas. We had no idea how cool or comprehensive all of these new adaptive reuse projects are, or the level of commercial and civic collaboration. Is the downtown core being promoted more to meeting planners because of all the new development?
Chris Meyer: Absolutely. Our responsibility is to promote the entire destination of Las Vegas, as well as southern Nevada. Downtown is the original part of Las Vegas. That’s where it all began. I’m like you, I’m very excited about what’s happening down there. As a matter of fact, I’m touring downtown tomorrow with a group from Korea. They heard about it and they’re very interested about what’s going on.
Skift: The last two years, Las Vegas has welcomed around 39.7 million visitors each. Is 2014 going to be the first year the city hits 40 million in inbound traffic?
Chris Meyer: Oh my gosh, yes. As a matter of fact, I had my single largest visitation month in March. I had almost four million visitors come here in one month. And I just got my June numbers, and I had the largest June I’ve ever seen at three and a half million people. It’s awesome. We’re rolling. We’re up 4.2% already through the first six months of the year.
Skift: We just wrote about the big new DestinationNEXT trend report published by Destination Marketing Association International last week. One of the assertions was that destination marketing organizations like yours need to move beyond sales and marketing into citywide economic development. What’s your take on that?
Chris Meyer: Our building is a world trade center, and one component of our world trade center activities is the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance (LVGEA). I just had a meeting with them about a prospective corporation that is looking to build a pretty unique facility out here. I can’t say it but it’s a large beverage company that might brew beer.
It was pretty cool, and what was interesting was I had the economic guys there, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and I had LVGEA there too. The corporate gentlemen were most interested in our tourism numbers and what the business tourism looked like, and they were impressed. They had no idea that we do as many business events as we do, when I told them we did over 22,000 meetings here last year, which we will exceed this year.