Las Vegas-Related: Bernstein Says Convention Biz Won’t Hit Pre-Pandemic Levels Until 2023

Posted on: April 13, 2021, 11:31h. 

Last updated on: April 13, 2021, 01:21h.

Convention and meeting business is integral to Las Vegas’s hopes of rebounding from the coronavirus pandemic. But some analysts believe that effort is going to take time.

Las Vegas conventions
The Las Vegas Convention Center. Bernstein says it will take time for conventions there to bounce back. (Image: FOX5 Vegas)

In a new research report titled “The Future of Work: What the Oscars Teaches Us About the Future of In-Person, Virtual and Hybrid Meetings,” Bernstein says some conferences and live meetings are done for good, owing to the pandemic, and that it could be 2023 before Sin City’s convention traffic resembles 2019 levels.

The last 12 months have seen a seismic shift in how business is done, with the vast majority of in-person meetings moving online,” said the research firm. “Although we wouldn’t pay too much heed to any predictions there is still likely to be some permanent loss of in-person meetings/conferences share to online beyond the pandemic.”

If Bernstein’s 2023 time line to recovery is correct, it’d be a blow for Las Vegas, because business exhibitions are vital drivers of the city’s economy. Underscoring that point, 42.5 million people visited the gaming center in 2019 — a number that dwindled to just over 19 million last year because of COVID-19.

Bernstein Assessment Could Be Bearish

There’s no denying that a return to normalcy will take time, and that with evolving technology, such as Zoom, it’s easier to do away with in-person meetings.

That doesn’t mean nails are being driven into the coffin of Sin City’s convention business. In fact, the opposite may be true. Last month, the World of Concrete (WOC) said it received approval for a live meeting in June, prompting a sense of optimism in Southern Nevada that conventions are on the way back.

Last week, MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle said Las Vegas is “back,” and that the largest operator on the Strip is taking steps to win back exhibition business, including providing large and small groups with rapid on-site COVID-19 testing.

Rosier projections, should those prove accurate, are vital for operators up and down the Strip. For example, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts both have substantial convention space that has yet to be tapped owing to the pandemic.

Vegas not Alone

Sin City isn’t the only gaming mecca grappling with a decline and anticipated resumption in meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE) activity.

Macau, the world’s largest casino center, is also a MICE hub. In 2019, gaming venues in the special administrative region (SAR) hosted more than 1,500 meetings and conventions — a number that slid to 362 last year amid the pandemic.

With the help of technology, Bernstein sees ways for operators to split the difference between live and distant get- togethers — a scenario that’s better than no meetings at all.

“Although it can feel like a binary outcome between software/virtual vs hotel/in-person, a third way is emerging with the concept of a hybrid meeting, collaboration between the virtual and online participants – this will, in theory, allow the best of both worlds, the collaboration of in-person with the ease of virtual,” said the research firm.