The annual Site International Conference last year took place in Las Vegas at the 3,933-room, 5-diamond Bellagio, with over 200,000 sf of meeting space located inside the Spa Tower. During the event, Site president Steve O’Malley discussed a new collaborative Site/MPI study: Convergence of Incentive Travel & Meeting Planning Activities. The study analyzes how planners are increasingly organizing both meeting and incentive programs.
“Thirty-seven percent of respondents confirmed that their role in planning other events has increased,” said O’Malley. Plus, 61% of incentive planners report an increase in meetings during incentives.
Nobody can capitalize on this like Las Vegas. The beauty for meeting and incentive pros is that the entire city is one big, infinitely customizeable group venue for both work and play. And it’s a deal.
I’m sitting in the 5-diamond Picasso restaurant in Bellagio waiting for friends when I see the painting behind the barman. I’m thinking, “That looks like a real Picasso. Wait a sec…”
Over a half dozen original Picassos are insured for more than $100 million in this gorgeous restaurant. Cocktails are $10.
Once everyone’s gathered, we make our way across the hall to Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s 4-diamond PRIME, with tall windows framing the famous Bellagio fountains. Dinner for eight started off with a mountainous chilled seafood platter, followed by a perfect peppercorn New York strip with red onion compote.
The next day, a colleague and I take in the weekly Art & Wine Pairing event at Bellagio’s Gallery of Fine Art. This is an awesome $35 pp (wine incl) icebreaker where the sommelier and curator discuss fine wine and paintings ranging from Monet to Rauschenberg. Then we segue into the 5-diamond Le Cirque. App/entree/dessert: $98. All told, that’s an impressive grouping of fabulousness, and we haven’t even left the building.
“What separates ARIA from any other hotel is the natural light,” says Tony Yousfi, CMP, director of sales. “Here you know if it’s 2 a.m. or 2 p.m.” Yousfi adds that it’s no longer than three minutes from the guestrooms, all located in one tower, to the convention space. And you don’t have to walk through the casino.
The guestroom hallways all end in big full-frame windows, and the rooms are high-tech with next-gen RFID keys, wired desk hubs, customized drape/music levels and a command center unit to control all of it. But the 373 ARIA Sky Suites are the bomb. They’re 1,200-2,500 sf with killer views, mod residential decor, Starck “smart loos” and private limo/elevator access. This product was designed for group rewards and there’s lots to go around.
Back downstairs, there are more celeb-chef restaurants than many cities. Guys like: Jean-Georges, Michael Mina, Sirio Maccioni, Julian Serrano and Michelin 3-star chef Masayoshi Takayama. This allows planners to create stellar progressive dinners without worrying about shuttles. Or coats, for that matter.
Before entering ARIA’s 300,000-sf convention center, we stop to admire the six LEED plaques, unheard of for a hotel this size.
“We’ve had more than a few groups tell us, ‘We sought you out because of your commitment to sustainability,’” says Yousfi. Looking into the prefunction space, I comment about the garden outside the towering windows and all of the daylight.
Yousfi smiles, “I know, it feels like a performing arts center.”
For more about the Site study, visit Prevue online.