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  • Antony Reeve-Crook

New Vegas

The US tradeshow mecca has evolved an economy away from the blackjack tables. Antony Reeve-Crook looks at how the destination is doubling down on events.

It’s now almost a decade since President Obama told American businesses: “You can’t get corporate jets, you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Superbowl on the taxpayer’s dime,” words that literally put the US hedonism capital on a par with the 10-yard line in terms of eligibility for large business events.

When San Francisco-based banking giant Wells Fargo, recipient of a $25 billion bailout by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARPS), withdrew from a planned 12-day junket to Las Vegas, followed by Goldman Sachs ($10bn from TARPS) withdrawing from a three-day conference at Mandalay Bay at a cost of $600,000, the “boondoggle” hotspot highlighted by Obama was left floundering far from favour.

Visitor figures show 38 million visitors poured into Las Vegas in 2012, one million fewer than attended in 2009. The city took longer than most to recover from the impact of the global financial crisis, construction stalling on the back of bankruptcy and funding withdrawal.

On the exhibitions and conventions front, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) combatted this negative marketing with initiatives such as its Vegas Means Business campaign, which sought to position the city as the premier US location for fostering innovation, ideas and creativity.

Perhaps Obama’s words had more impact than expected. Certainly the city appeared committed to developing the more serious aspects of its business.

For the full article, published in Exhibition World magazine, click here.

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