Michael Dominguez, senior vice president of sales for MGM Resorts International, is a busy guy. His company is investing over $350 million this year in new Las Vegas meetings infrastructure at 12 MGM hotels up and down the Strip. The city is back in a big way, and Dominguez says MGM needs to be prepared for the boom in advance group bookings for 2014/15. In September, MGM rolled out what it’s promoting as the “highest-performing, next generation wireless LAN in the industry.” All of the hotels are now connected to the $14 million, high-density WiFi system, customizable per group. We spoke with Mr. Dominguez to learn about all of the new developments.
Prevue: IMEX keeps getting better every year. What are your thoughts? What is some of the feedback you’ve gotten from buyers?
Michael Dominguez: One of the comments I heard, is that it’s quickly become a show that people are beginning to really recognize. The appointments we are able to generate because of the volume of people and the quality of attendees is phenomenal. In three years, Ray Blue has created a huge show for the industry. It’s not a complicated formula when you think about it. We bring all of the industry organizations together here at IMEX and it’s very successful. Everyone is there helping drive the attendance of the show. It’s just phenomenal. It’s a week you need to mark on your calendar.
How does MGM create an amazing Las Vegas experience for groups?
Dominguez: That’s a very simple question. We are based around entertainment, and Vegas is unique in that regard. As a destination, we try our best to enhance the destination because we truly are the one trick pony. Other destinations have so many other pieces to their puzzle. We have a unique advantage because we can reinvent ourselves, and the reason we can do that it because of scale. We can host successful events for 30,000 people in one weekend. You can satisfy every demographic, every taste and every want from one place. That’s why Vegas does so well. We are personal, providing all things to all people. We have traditional casino groups, we have young people who want big nightclubs, we have groups that want to dine with celebrity chefs and we have groups who want to watch great entertainment with our Cirque shows or Brad Garrett. It’s a cross section of experiences that we have at MGM Resorts. I don’t think other destinations have that.
Tell us about MGM’s new WiFi infrastructure.
Dominguez: We now offer high speed bandwidth throughout the MGM portfolio, so groups can stream video or work through the VPN simultaneously. The $14 million project with Cisco built a custom platform that goes across the entire MGM campus, at all of our hotels. Now 5,000 people can be on the network with one meg of power per person at the same time. It’s unheard of in the industry, it’s very cutting edge. The beauty of it is that we can move bandwidth. That way, if I have a large group hosting a buyout and I know that they are hosting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., I can move bandwidth from the guestrooms to the meeting space. The flexibility is what you don’t see on a lot of WiFi platforms in today’s market. The beauty for us is that the resort fee for internet in the guest rooms also goes for the WiFi in the meeting space. There’s not a seperate change. It’s seamless as far as taking it to the meeting space.
How much has MGM Resorts invested in Las Vegas recently?
Dominguez: We’ve invested over a billion dollars into our hotels over the past three years. We wanted to be a luxury brand in Las Vegas that provides several options, to really capitalize on the recovery marketing. You’re looking at a $170 million renovation project on the MGM Grand hotel with new room products. We redid the nightclub which was needed. As far as dining, we wanted a range of casual and fine dining. We are beginning with that transition now. 1842 is Chef Michael Mina’s pub, we had him create something more relaxed and still have that flair that we would expect from him. At Mandalay Bay, there’s a new nightclub called Light, that complements Hakkasan very well. We also have a few new restaurants and the new Cirque du Soleil show. We wanted to make sure that you could come into both hotels and have plenty of options.
Can you tell us about new outdoor space outside New York-New York?
Dominguez: Yes. One thing that has changed is that we used to keep you locked into one place for your entire stay. Now, Las Vegas has become a very pedestrian-friendly city. We have great weather nine months out of the year, so we really needed to create some great outdoor space for people to use. That urban park will get you outside with food trucks, very similar to Gramercy Park. There’s going to be a beer garden, a Hershey store, shopping, etc. The whole idea is to have a great outdoor outlet where planners can rent out the Brooklyn Bridge and then use the park. We want people to get outside and enjoy everything Vegas has to offer. The park will open in 2014. The new District area will also include the largest arena in North America.
What will the upcoming Delano Las Vegas project bring to the brand?
Dominguez: The Delano will bring us an international audience and recognition. It has such a great reputation in the Miami market. It’s a product that is going to command a higher price point, but really deserves it based on the quality experience you’ll get here. We aren’t trying to bring South Beach to Las Vegas, but you will get Delano’s sexy, modern luxury aspect.