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Las Vegas Convention Center gets ‘World Trade Center’ designation


Justin M. Bowen

Show attendees file into the Las Vegas Convention Center in this 2009 file photo.

Updated Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011 | 4:55 p.m.

The Las Vegas Convention Center has been designated as Las Vegas’ World Trade Center.

Representatives of the Consumer Electronics Association and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on Tuesday unveiled signage at the Convention Center for “World Trade Center, Las Vegas.”

The Arlington, Va.-based CEA, which announced in March that it had obtained the rights to the name from the World Trade Centers Association and began a search for a facility to house a center, opens the annual International Consumer Electronics Show at the Convention Center on Thursday.

“We were the first major business convention to come here in 1978,” CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro said. “We think Las Vegas is the best place in the world to conduct a trade show because of the facilities here and the entire community gets behind CES. People want to come back every year. This designation is the latest phase of our partnership.”

Shapiro said the designation gives Las Vegas “a business panache that is very important for international business.”

“A lot of people don’t know what’s business-y about Las Vegas,” he said.

For Las Vegas, the World Trade Center designation puts the city on the map as an international center of commerce.

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the LVCVA, said for very little investment, the city gets a big stage and additional prominence in the international business community.

Under terms of the agreement with the CEA, the LVCVA negotiated additional move-in and move-out days at a reduced cost for the Consumer Electronics Show and extended the event’s contract at the Convention Center through 2015.

CES is one of Las Vegas’ largest and most prominent conventions every year and the 2011 edition is expected to draw more than 126,000 people to the city. Technical innovations often are announced at CES in press releases with a Las Vegas dateline.

Shapiro said he began having conversations about a World Trade Center designation with Ralenkotter years ago when the LVCVA executive was heading the agency’s marketing division. Shapiro said he hopes the new designation will help erase some of the negative perceptions people had about Las Vegas when President Obama made remarks about spending recession recovery money on trips to the city.

“When President Obama said what he said about Las Vegas, it was very harmful,” Shapiro said. “I heard from hoteliers that they lost a lot of room nights because the president of the United States was saying Las Vegas is not a business destination. That was very harmful. We’re trying to get back from this harm at this point. It’s all in the positioning of the city and no one knows the positioning of the city better than Rossi Ralenkotter.”

Shapiro said the CEA would hold the World Trade Center, Las Vegas license and pay association fees, but the LVCVA would be the center for information and oversee the local facility.

Shapiro said he was amazed that there wasn’t a World Trade Center designated in Las Vegas when he first researched the matter.

“These are the most prestigious buildings in the world and I asked myself, ‘Why isn’t there one in Las Vegas?’” Shapiro said. “We know that to keep CES relevant, we have to have international attendees. Compared with other countries, the United States is a slow-growth market, so this helps position Las Vegas as a business destination rather than just a destination for a good time.”

The designation plays right into the LVCVA’s newly minted marketing strategy discussed by the LVCVA board of directors last month. Two pieces of the three-pronged strategy are luring more business travelers and more international visitors. The LVCVA, which hopes to increase international visitation by 25 percent over the next five years, also banks on business travelers making leisure trips in the future after getting a taste of Las Vegas when here for business.

Las Vegas currently attracts about 5 million business travelers of the roughly 37 million visitors to Las Vegas each year. Of the 128,000 attendees to CES last year, about 25,000 came from foreign countries.

The New York-based World Trade Centers Association, founded in 1970, is a non-profit apolitical organization dedicated to trade expansion.

The WTCA has 326 members in 92 countries servicing more than 750,000 international trading corporations.

The closest World Trade Center facilities to Las Vegas are in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Long Beach and Oxnard, Calif., and in Salt Lake City. Not every World Trade Center facility is the same. Some have offices and meeting facilities or offer trade information and education events.

The Los Angeles World Trade Center, for example, is located in downtown L.A. and offers trade seminars on a regular basis. In addition to meeting rooms, the center has on-site visa information and foreign currency exchange services.

When Shapiro announced in March that he was seeking a location for a World Trade Center, he suggested that a facility could be established at a hotel trying to position itself as a business center or at a local office building.

The Convention Center is getting the trade center designation at a relatively low cost. In addition to the reduced move-in and move-out fees for two days at CES – worth about $268,300 a year from 2012 through 2015, based on daily moving costs of $134,150 a day – Ralenkotter said he expected about $50,000 to $75,000 a year to be spent for marketing the designation and for travel on trade missions to lure organizations to try Las Vegas as a convention or trade show destination.

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