It’s one of those only in Vegas moments. You’re dining on Maine lobster and drinking a nice Montrachet with 21 of your colleagues, talking shop and feeling good about the product launch—while hanging from a crane 130 feet up in the air.
The brand new Dinner in the Sky restaurant/thrill ride launches this month, where guests sit strapped into chairs around a dining table hoisted high above the strip. The menus are customizable and the view is astronomical.
“Choice, absolutely. Vegas is about choice,” says Chris Meyer, vp of convention sales for Las Vegas CVA. “Once your meeting is over, there’s more in store for what’s next that evening than anywhere else in the world.”
When it comes to Las Vegas you don’t have to provide a lot of extra hype and holler. The name itself is enough to stoke excitement and get the adrenaline rushing. Talking to meeting planners and DMCs, all of them agree there’s nowhere like Vegas when it comes to customizing the neon nights.
“Las Vegas, for a meeting planner, is only limited by imagination,” Meyer says. “You can put a group on Fremont Street and have the whole five blocks of the Fremont Street Experience canopy light up with a customized show made for that meeting. You can buy out a restaurant on the lakefront of Bellagio and watch the fountains light up with Bocelli’s Romanza. You can have a party on the Grand Canal, gondolas and all. People who haven’t been to Las Vegas in a long time are going to be really bowled over.”
A Wink to the Whales
There’s a caste-like hierarchy system of bettors in Las Vegas, ranging from the comped, high-betting “whales” to the budget “bus ’n buffet” crowd. Now, few of us expect to be rubbing elbows with the top tier, doubling down with $500 chips at Bellagio. But everyone wants to feel like they’re “players”—someone special with perks to match. We watch Clooney’s Ocean 11 crew swagger about town a generation after Sinatra’s. These are the guys who always have the backstage pass and the free bottle of Veuve chilling in the upgraded suite.
“Of course it depends on the group but most people think VIP experiences are out of reach,” says Lisa Meller, president of Meeting Perspectives DMC. “With a group you can gain access to things the general public usually cannot do, see, or experience on their own, or could not afford on their own.”
Meller believes combining experiences that attendees might not get anywhere else with a touch of exclusivity always makes a planner look good.
“Access to exclusive clubs, backstage passes and parties in pimpy suites generally raise interest and are more memorable,” she says. “You can provide opportunities that only high rollers seem to get, and help them gain access to clubs or venues either by getting them ‘on the list,’ reserving private tables, providing Hummers or managing front-of-line passes.
“For an even bigger thrill,” Meller continues, “book a dinner or reception at a private club such as House of Blues’ Foundation Room, with its knockout views and celebrity status. Or try a block party in the Fantasy Suites at The Palms. These are places usually off limits if you’re on your own.”
Want to start the night off with a flourish? Book a series of chopper tours for up to 300 at sunset when the desert takes on its ethereal glow and the Vegas light show begins to twinkle. “We’ve done helicopter tours over the Strip at night,” says Jerry Jenove, vp at Resort Meetings Consortium DMC in Cherry Hill, NJ. “There are not a lot of places with helipads that can handle large groups for this kind of tour.”
After the joyride, it’s time for dinner and drinks. And nothing says your client or company has arrived and reached a certain level of success like a restaurant or nightclub buyout, whether it’s Tao, LAX, Moon, ghostbar, rumjungle or PURE. It can be less expensive than doing up the ballroom, and they know how to throw a party like nobody’s business.
“The most important thing is to keep the group pampered and not feeling nickel and dimed,” says Kristen Messineo, event manager at Bobit Business Media in Los Angeles. “If you want to keep everyone in the venue and dress up the events area, you can do so much there. We’ve had Cirque du Soleil acts flying above the crowd. We also bought out rumjungle and added girls to swing above the dance floor.”
Las Vegas is as well known for its stellar lineup of shows as New York’s Broadway or London’s West End, and few events are easier to arrange than a big musical. Typically, planners can deliver a VIP vibe by negotiating for bottle service and tables close to the stage at major discounts for groups.
In an effort to lure the party crowds away from Palms Place and Hard Rock, Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino will unveil Peepshow in April, starring Mel B. of Spice Girls fame, and Kelly Monaco from General Hospital. The modern burlesque show revolves around the Mel B. character educating the timid Monaco in the rules of seduction.
Over at The Mirage, the Beatles-themed LOVE show is a colorful ’60s romp produced by Cirque du Soleil, well-suited for nostalgic baby boomers. But planners should start off the evening for groups at The Beatles REVOLUTION Lounge, the first-ever Cirque du Soleil nightclub.
Think of this as the world’s only psychedelic teambuilding ultra-lounge where attendees sit around tables with cutting-edge computer tablets. When someone writes on the tablet, the imagery is projected onto a diamond-shaped column viewable throughout the room.
The inspiration behind this is the famous graffiti at London’s Abbey Road, which is the name of REVOLUTION’s bar. Which is decorated with Yellow Submarine-inspired portholes. Wait, the song allusions keep on coming. The entire high-sensory experience occurs below a ceiling filled with 30,000 crystals reflecting the kaleidoscope of lighting. You guessed it—a shout out to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. The venue hosts 600. To book, call Maggie Tuitele Garcia at 702.693.8300 x1270.
Many a meeting or convention attendee never ventured more than a few blocks from the Las Vegas strip. But all the blinking lights, foie gras and Bette Midler can overstimulate the synapses after a while. Sometimes a group needs a time out.
“Some of the best events have been at the base of the Grand Canyon where we flew in guests and then had a butler pass hors d’oeuvres and champagne out while an orchestra played,” says Joshua Jones, sr vp at Baskow & Associates DMC. “There’s also a brand new venue in Las Vegas called the Springs Preserve, the first green venue in Vegas. The Springs can handle events up to 4,000 guests, and it has an outdoor amphitheater.”
Another option for group soirees is a private residence, and here’s where a good DMC is invaluable. These can come and go without notice so it helps to have an insider.
“At one time we had exclusive use of a 15,000 sf home that was underground, built in the early 70s and totally retro,” says Stephanie Arone, director of sales & marketing for Activity Planners DMC. “We still have access to private residences ranging from high-rise apartments with a patio that can seat 50 for a plated meal overlooking the city. Or there’s a residence formerly owned by a Middle Eastern royal that will accommodate 2,000 people for events on the grounds.”
So, where do you start with so many venue decisions? A simple call to the sales staff at LVCVA would be the first thing you do, naturally, but not just for collateral materials.
“They know what’s hot, what’s new, and what’s so last year, and they’ll tell it straight,” says Meyer. “But once they give you the crayons, it’s up to you to show your true colors.”
Trump Las Vegas
No matter how upscale the clientele, visitors to Vegas always want to get value for their action. Trump International Hotel & Tower rises 64 stories high, next to the Fashion Show Mall, Wynn Las Vegas and Palazzo. The glass tower with the 24-karat gold sheen houses 1,282 smokeless suites ranging from 515 to 3,500 sf of palatial quietude.
Here’s a deal. Group rates presently start at $89 nightly.
Each guest room is a residence tastefully done up in classic contemporary style, with efficient Euro-style kitchens featuring appliances by Wolf and Bosch. Trump doesn’t skimp on the bathrooms either. Large marble bath areas have twin sinks, custom vanities and spa tubs big enough for two.
Entrée into the hotel is no less grand than an entrance to a New York luxury residence. Clients can expect super-doting doorman service as they walk into the grand marble and crystal chandelier lobby that is somehow . . . quiet. No clanging of coins, no smoky clouds, no crowds to dodge.
“There is a very sophisticated elegance you sense the moment you arrive,” says Katie Conway, marketing manager. We’re very hands-on for an attendee, who will be escorted from their car to wherever they need to go. It’s a very uncomplicated process because it’s extremely easy to move between the meeting space, rooms and public spaces.”
Meeting space is intimate at 2,400 sf, but Conway says most of her groups max out at 60, adding, “Each group is likely to be the only group in house, so they have our undivided attention.”
Mr. Wynn’s Encore
Steve Wynn, the legendary lionizer of Las Vegas, touts Encore as simply the most luxurious address in town with the best rooms on the Strip. We’re not ready to disagree.
“Even though it’s in Las Vegas, a property like this doesn’t exactly open every day,” says Jeffrey Gloeb, vp of hotel sales.
Take the Swarovski crystals. They comprise the glints from the firmament of ruby butterflies that make up one of the many motifs of this chocolate glass tower. Hand-blown Murano glass chandeliers, Egyptian Mamluk lanterns, carved limestone walls, Botero sculptures, groves of indoor and outdoor flowers—a treasury of artful living. No fountains, though. No volcanoes nor pyrotechnics. Encore’s signature is beauty and intimacy, overstated in its offerings but understated in delivery.
Combine a group event at Encore with Dream Car Rentals. For $950 for five hours, be the envy of the Strip in a Lamborghini Gallardo Spider. And hook up with an inside smoother at Vegas VIP, whose offices are staffed with “people who know people.”
No lines, no parking, no questions, no waiting. That’s how you roll in Vegas.