Steve Marcus / FILE
Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Strip resorts, restaurants, show producers and exotic dancers reeling from slumping tourism will get a boost in coming weeks with four major conventions and trade shows each bringing more than 80,000 attendees to town.
The largest of them, the International Consumer Electronics Show, anticipates 2,700 exhibitors, about the same as last year. But the figure represents the loss of 300 companies that are not coming this year, being replaced by 300 other companies attending for the first time.
And because of the recession’s effect on the Strip, convention sponsors may not be complaining as much this year as they have in the past about exorbitant room rates or being forced into bundled convention packages that saddled them with minimum food-and-beverage guarantees.
The winter conventions are the best-attended shows of the year, including the largest, CES, which runs Thursday through Sunday; the return of the nation’s largest homebuilder show after a four-year hiatus, the International Builders’ Show, Jan. 20-23; and two longtime Las Vegas fixtures, the World of Concrete, Feb. 3-6, and MAGIC International, a major fashion industry show over Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 17-19.
Several other well-attended shows — smaller by Las Vegas standards but significant in their potential economic effect — in February. They are Surfaces 2009, a floor and fixtures show expected to draw 40,000 people, Feb. 3-5; the February World Market Center furniture exhibition, with more than 50,000 expected, Feb. 9-13; and the World Shoe Association Show, with attendance of about 30,000, Feb. 12-14.
The shows are wrapped around two other events that bring people to the Strip — the start of the Chinese New Year (Jan. 26) and Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1).
The two months of activity couldn’t come at a better time. Las Vegas limped through the end of 2008 with a decline in visitors of more than 3 percent for the first 10 months of the year compared with the previous year.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority also reported that for those 10 months, the number of Las Vegas conventions and trade shows was down more than 4 percent, convention attendance was off nearly 4 percent and economic effect from attendees was down almost 7 percent to $6.9 billion.
Tara Dunion, senior director of communications for CES, said advanced registration figures point to attendance of more than 130,000 for this year’s show. The authority is gearing up for 140,000, last year’s attendance total.
CES and the other three massive shows will be staged at the Convention Center.
Another major draw that begins in January is this year’s U.S. Bowling Congress Championships, which start Jan. 15 and run through July 31. Thousands of people will rotate through Las Vegas and bowl at lanes to be set up at Cashman Center. By the time the event ends, 150,000 people will have come through Las Vegas for it.
The four-day Consumer Electronics Show is a public relations bonanza for Las Vegas because media from around the world attend and file stories with a Las Vegas dateline. Many of the major networks’ morning shows broadcast segments from the show. This year, one of the nation’s best-rated television game shows, “Jeopardy!,” will be taped in conjunction with CES at the Convention Center.
An issue that was brewing in the months leading up to last year’s CES apparently has been resolved as a result of the economic slowdown and an increase in room inventory.
CES exhibitors complained to executives of the Consumer Electronics Association, the owner and organizer of the show, about the high cost of food and beverage guarantees that were being written into bulk hotel room contracts.
Association officials said the prices had climbed dramatically in two years before the 2008 show. They asked the authority to persuade resorts to moderate prices or they would be forced to look elsewhere for a convention venue.
But CES attendees report that resorts have been willing to negotiate more favorable rates. In addition, there’s new competition for customers, thanks to the opening of Palazzo, Trump International and Encore.
Less than 10 days after CES leaves, the annual International Builders Show comes to town, beginning the day after the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. An estimated 90,000 people are expected for the show, held in conjunction with a series of National Homebuilders Association educational programs.
The homebuilders are returning after four years of conventions in Orlando, Fla. Part of the builders’ show includes tours of specially designed homes of the future in a Henderson neighborhood.
A version of this story appears in this week’s In Business Las Vegas, a sister publication of the Sun.