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Chris Jones

Las Vegas Tops Magazine List

29 April 2005

LAS VEGAS -- From its semifunctional monorail to Comdex's cancellation to the highly publicized walkout by members of Teamsters Local 631, Las Vegas' convention and trade show industry faced its share of significant challenges in 2004.

None were powerful enough to knock the city from its long-standing perch as the nation's top business showplace, editors of a respected industry publication said this week.

Tradeshow Week, a Los Angeles-based magazine that monitors the global convention industry, each year compiles a list of the nation's largest conventions and trade shows.

And in 2004, for the 11th consecutive year, Las Vegas ranked atop the magazine's Tradeshow Week 200. The list was released with this week's edition.

"I don't want to be a booster for Vegas, but Vegas has a lot going for it, and people clearly see that," Publisher Adam Schaffer said Thursday. "Like Los Angeles understands the film business, Las Vegas understands the exhibition industry."

In 2004, Las Vegas hosted 38 of the nation's 200 largest trade shows, the same number it hosted in 2003. Second-place Chicago hosted 18, down from 27 the prior year, while third-ranked Orlando, Fla., boosted its total to 18 from 17.

Ranked by exhibit space leased by the 200 largest shows, Las Vegas' 18.5 million square feet was also best in the nation and a 1.6 million square foot gain compared with 2003.

Chicago's 7.7. million square feet ranked second, though that total was down from 2003's 8.8 million. Orlando also ranked third in this category with nearly 5.6 million square feet, up from 5.2 million the prior year.

"You have to take into the (cyclical nature) of the business, but what stood out is the fact that Vegas held in terms of number of shows and market share while Chicago decreased a little more than I expected," Schaffer said.

Trade show rankings often fluctuate because shows may rotate from city to city from year to year; others may take place every second or third year.

Last year, Las Vegas hosted more than 5.7 million convention attendees who contributed approximately $6.86 billion in nongaming spending to the local economy, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported.

The International Consumer Electronics Show, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center from Jan. 8-11, 2004, was the year's largest trade show with 1.39 million square feet of net exhibition space, Tradeshow Week said.

Other high-ranking local events included the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show, which ranked fourth with more than 1 million square feet at the Las Vegas Convention Center; August's World Shoe Association event at Mandalay Bay (No. 5 with 961,300 square feet); and August's Men's Apparel Guild in California trade show (No. 6 with 928,640 square feet).

Overall, Las Vegas hosted 10 of the year's 20 largest shows.

Chris Meyer, convention sales director for the convention authority, said Thursday he's confident the local convention industry was nowhere close to peaking in 2004 and will grow further in 2005.

"Comdex was a Tradeshow 200 show the prior year (2003) and it went bye-bye. If that had been there, we could have been even bigger" in 2004, Meyer said about the fall technology show that once ranked as this city's largest convention but has since been twice canceled because of poor projected attendance.

Looking ahead, Meyer said the Mandalay Bay Convention Center and Sands Expo and Convention Center are poised to host more and larger shows this year. In addition, the Las Vegas Convention Center in March hosted the city's largest trade show for the first time since 2002, the ConExpo-ConAgg construction equipment showcase, and will this summer welcome the Las Vegas debut of the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers gathering. The biennial event's most-recent occurrence in Anaheim, Calif., ranked 51st on the Tradeshow 200 in 2003.

Also, July's debut of the World Market Center furniture mart in downtown Las Vegas will include approximately 1 million square feet of leased space at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Meyer said.

"I think we'll jump," Meyer said of next year's square footage total.