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Chris Jones

Show is on in Las Vegas

22 August 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Las Vegas was home to nearly 40 percent of last year's 50 fastest-growing U.S. trade shows, a respected industry publication reported.

Tradeshow Week, a Los Angeles-based magazine published by Reed Business Information, on Monday released its fourth-annual Fastest 50. The list measures which events enjoyed the largest growth in net square footage leased from 2003 through 2005.

Las Vegas hosted 18 such events in 2005, and Tradeshow Week Publisher Adam Schaffer said the city's performance among up-and-comers mirrors its longtime status as the nation's top host of major industry events.

"Shows that come to Vegas do grow," Schaffer said. "Vegas is on the radar screen of every convention center and convention and visitors bureau in the country because it continues to be a very, very strong draw."

Southern Nevada has long been known for hosting major conventions such as Comdex or the International Consumer Electronics Show.

But with much less fanfare, the community has padded its reputation -- and businesses' bottom lines -- by welcoming an assortment of smaller, lesser-known events, such as Global Gaming Expo and the National Association of Television Program Executives.

Schaffer said those attending and exhibiting at smaller shows are drawn to Las Vegas because it's relatively easy to get to, has multiple hotels and convention centers, and offers visitors plenty of things to do while in town.

"In the post-9/11 world, attendees and exhibitors are making much harder decisions about leaving the office and leaving the family," Schaffer said. "If they can have a good experience while they're doing that, then that's the draw."

Patti Shock, a professor and department chair of the Tourism and Convention Administration Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said this city's many amenities have trade show organizers lining up to come here.

"The industry cries and complains that we don't respond fast enough to them, but they don't understand how we're deluged with people that want to come here," Shock said.

"Even with three convention centers and as many hotel rooms as we have, we cannot accommodate the number of people who want to come here.

"Think about it: if you have a choice between going to Cleveland and Las Vegas...," Shock added without finishing her comments aloud.

Southern Nevada is home to 133,000 guest rooms and approximately 9.5 million square feet of meeting and exhibition space, including three of the nation's largest venues in the Las Vegas Convention Center, Mandalay Bay Convention Center and the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

With so much space to fill, it makes sense to see so many up-and-coming events take place here, Shock said.

But local hotel-casino companies also take risks when booking unproven events because it's more difficult to forecast how well an unproven show will draw. A show organizer may promise to fill 5,000 hotel rooms but instead draw just 500, for example.

Including events large and small, Las Vegas hosted 22,154 conventions last year that attracted 6.16 million attendees and $7.6 billion in nongaming spending.

Through June, those figures slipped by 2.5 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, for conventions and attendees. But spending was up 2.6 percent in the first half of 2006, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported earlier this month.