Friday, Feb. 6, 2009 | 2 a.m.
The optimism that upcoming big conventions could help jump-start the local economy has darkened as some of the largest meetings and trade shows are estimating lower attendance equivalent to Las Vegas losing a major show.
Among four major shows — the World of Concrete, MAGIC Marketplace and the World Shoe Association in February and the National Association of Broadcasters in April — attendance is expected to be down 64,000 people from last year’s events, the size of one big convention.
In addition, one of the year’s biggest nonconvention tourism special events, race weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway at the end of February, also is projecting a major decline in attendance. The Nevada Taxicab Authority, which regulates Clark County’s taxi industry, one of the key transportation providers for race weekend, was told last week that an estimated 100,000 fewer people would be in town for events Feb. 27 through March 1.
This week’s World of Concrete, an annual international convention of the masonry and concrete construction industries, is forecasting attendance of 70,000 people, or about 15,000 people fewer than in 2008.
The slump in the construction industry has certainly affected the World of Concrete, which has downsized in other ways from last year. The world’s only international commercial construction show for the concrete and masonry industry will have 825,000 square feet of exhibition space at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Last year’s event, the second-largest in the show’s 34-year history, featured 900,000 square feet of exhibits.
The largest show ever occurred in 2007. Hanley Wood Exhibitions, which sponsors World of Concrete, said more than 900,000 square feet of exhibits were displayed and 91,628 attended that year.
Trade shows generally measure their success by exhibit square footage, but the more crucial number for the Las Vegas economy is attendance.
Meanwhile, the World Shoe Association is downsizing in a different way. The footwear fashion event, conducted twice a year in Las Vegas, will go from four days to three days Feb. 12-14 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center and the Sands Expo & Convention Center.
Organizers for the show, which incorporates a premium footwear, handbag and jewelry component known as “The WSA Collection,” also are planning smaller exhibition booths on main aisles of the trade show floor to entice attendance.
Despite the enhancements, organizers are expecting attendance to dip from 30,000 last year to 28,000 this year.
The most dramatic attendance decline is expected to occur at MAGIC Marketplace, the fashion exhibition scheduled Feb. 17-19 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
MAGIC, an acronym for the former name of the event, the Men’s Apparel Guild in California, already downsized the length of the twice-a-year convention when it lopped off a day at last year’s summer show.
This year, attendance is expected to fall 30 percent to 70,000 people.
The most noticeable change in MAGIC’s event this year is that the show will occupy less space. It hasn’t announced how much square footage the show floor will have, but the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority confirmed that the event would be in the Convention Center’s North and Central halls but not the two-story South Hall as in years past.
Another show looking at considerable downsizing will be the April 18-23 National Association of Broadcasters show.
Although the event will include a new 48-hour film competition and festival, the induction of legendary Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Sculley into the Radio Broadcasting Hall of Fame and, possibly, additional discussions about the on-again-off-again transition to digital television, attendance is expected to dip to 98,000 people from the 115,000 originally forecast.
But registrations could pick up after last month’s announcement that room rates would be discounted substantially for the show.
“A sluggish economy, reduced tourism and higher inventory have allowed Las Vegas hotels to reduce rates, presenting travelers with exceptional savings even during peak convention dates,” an National Association of Broadcasters news release said Jan. 21.
Expovision, NAB’s housing management partner, said rates have dropped by 20 percent to 40 percent below earlier offerings of peak show dates.
Among those four conventions, attendance is expected to be off an estimated 64,000 people. In 2008 the city’s meetings and trade shows attracted an average 525,000 conventiongoers each month.
The 2009 NASCAR Race Weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway will draw significantly fewer fans to town this year.
Although events are still three weeks away and tourism experts say the sluggish economy has resulted in compressed booking windows, the Taxicab Authority was told that the number of people expected for the Sam’s Town 300 race Feb. 28 would drop from 150,000 to 50,000 people and the number for the Shelby 427 NASCAR Sprint Cup race March 1 would draw 150,000, down from 250,000 a year ago.
The Taxicab Authority was told those figures don’t reflect attendance at the races, but the number of people expected to be in town that are in some way associated with the races.