Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2017

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THE ECONOMY:

Conventions not spared sting of slump

Fewer attending some big shows of ’09, and exhibits using less space

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Steve Marcus

Jim Graham, left, of Swing America, and Rod Brekhus of Pumpmaster attend the World of Concrete convention, which filled less space this year than in previous years.

Estimates of lower attendance at four big conventions are clouding optimism that the big shows would give the Las Vegas economy a much-needed boost.

Attendance at the World of Concrete, MAGIC Marketplace and the World Shoe Association in February and the National Association of Broadcasters in April is expected to be down 64,000 from last year’s events.

That’s the equivalent to Las Vegas losing one major show.

In addition, fewer tourists are expected for NASCAR race weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one of the biggest nonconvention draws each year. The Nevada Taxicab Authority, which regulates Clark County’s taxi industry, was told last week that an estimated 100,000 fewer people would be in town for events Feb. 27 through March 1.

Last week’s World of Concrete, an annual international convention of the masonry and concrete construction industries, drew an estimated 70,000 people — about 15,000 fewer than in 2008.

The slump in the construction industry certainly affected World of Concrete, which used 825,000 square feet of exhibition space at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Its largest show was in 2007, when more than 900,000 square feet of exhibits were displayed and 91,628 people attended.

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 by cutting back from four days to three. The footwear fashion event, conducted twice a year in Las Vegas, is set for Thursday through Saturday at Mandalay Bay Convention Center and Sands Expo & Convention Center.

Organizers of 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 increase 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 for 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, 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.

This year’s MAGIC 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 National Association of Broadcasters show in April.

Although the event will include a new 48-hour film festival, the induction of legendary Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully into the Radio Broadcasting Hall of Fame and, possibly, additional discussions about the delayed transition to digital television, attendance is expected to dip to 98,000 from the original forecasts of 115,000. Registration could pick up after last month’s announcement that room rates would be discounted 20 percent to 40 percent.

Among those four conventions, attendance is expected to be off an estimated 64,000. In 2008 the city’s meetings and trade shows attracted an average of 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. 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 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 who are in some way associated with the races.

A version of this story appeared in this week’s In Business Las Vegas, a sister publication of the Sun.

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