The pandemic robbed Las Vegas of an important part of its business model. Even after casinos got permission to open (at first with a lot of restrictions) big events stayed away. Conventions, entailing large gatherings of people, made no sense in an era of social distancing, and cancellations piled up, leaving Las Vegas without a key draw.
Conventions give people an excuse to go to Las Vegas. It's very different to ask your partner or significant other about taking a Las Vegas trip for no reason other than "having" to go for work.
Huge events like World of Concrete and the Consumer Electronics Show each draw more than 100,000 people to Las Vegas. Those arrivals fill up not just the casinos owned by Las Vegas Strip leaders Caesars Entertainment (CZR) and MGM Resorts International (MGM) but also pretty much every property in the city.
Those huge conventions, however, are relatively rare. The true driver of Las Vegas business traffic comes from smaller shows.
These events fill the convention space at Caesars Palace, Bally's, and MGM Grand. The Venetian, which has a new owner, has a large convention space, which has been a major draw.
The Las Vegas Strip each year hosts hundreds, maybe thousands, of smaller conventions that don't rise to the level of needing the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Now, a new player -- a brand new casino coming to the North Las Vegas Strip -- wants to take a big piece of that business.
Las Vegas Strip Has a New MGM and Caesars Rival
Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a project that has been on a nearly 20-year odyssey, appears on track for a late-2023 opening.
The new casino wants to pull consumers to the north strip, and it plans to use meetings and modern conference space as its edge over the Caesars and MGM properties, as well as the Venetian, on the south and central strips.
“The introduction of Fontainebleau Las Vegas into this market comes with elevated expectations among meeting planners, so we are already thinking several steps ahead and crafting solutions to new opportunities,” explains Fontainebleau Las Vegas President Cliff Atkinson.
“Our position on the Strip and the multitude of event spaces within Fontainebleau serve as the foundation upon which we are building the future of the Las Vegas convention industry, powered by the collective knowledge, success, and imagination of our incredible leadership team.”
Because it's a brand-new building, the designers of the 67-story Fontainebleau have optimized every detail of the site's more than 550,000 square feet of customizable indoor and outdoor meeting and convention space, "with countless configurations throughout five levels of the resort, allowing experiences to be tailored to every preference."
The new casino/convention center offers a 105,000 square foot pillarless ballroom -- one of the largest in Las Vegas -- "that is easily divisible to meet a variety of needs; a three-level, more than 90,000-square-foot theater with generous pre-function space capable of hosting business functions to entertainment, nearly 62,000 square feet of additional space that can be used to create up to 57 breakout rooms, three executive boardrooms overlooking almost 25,900-square-foot of an outdoor hospitality garden that, like much of Fontainebleau Las Vegas, provides a seamless connection to the natural beauty that surrounds the city."
Fontainebleau also offers six dedicated freight elevators, designed to make load-in and load-out easier.
“We are creating an environment in which each space, each touchpoint, allows guests to perform at their highest level,” explains Fontainebleau Development Senior Vice President Tony Yousfi.
“Fontainebleau may be new to Las Vegas, but we are not new to hospitality. From location to navigation to every major and minor detail, our resort is designed with the convention guest and meeting planner top-of-mind.”
Why Is Fontainebleau a Threat to Caesars and MGM?
Casinos want conventions because they fill their hotel rooms, restaurants, and gaming areas. Las Vegas visitors certainly explore the city, and people staying on the Strip don't stick to one property, but hosting a convention means selling out your rooms at high prices while driving sales at every other part of a property.
Fontainebleau will have the most modern convention facility, built to current technology standards and designed for accessibility.
That's an edge over Caesars, MGM, and the Venetian simply because newer often equals better and it's very clear that Fontainebleau's owners have put careful thought into taking this business.
“It cannot be overstated how much our unique design plays a role in our ability to move this city’s convention industry forward,” Atkinson said.
“When guests arrive, they will immediately recognize that they are at the convergence of modern business travel and luxury hospitality – it’s a world that empowers them to explore, engage, and shape their visit to their liking.”
That's maybe not meant to be the new kid on the block throwing down the gauntlet to its more-established rivals, but that's effectively what's happening.