The Meet Minneapolis team just returned from IMEX, a meetings industry event of more than 15,000 total attendees including 4,000 hosted buyers. Hosted buyers, such as those who were in our city for Connect Marketplace in August, are highly qualified meeting and event planners with current and active RFPs.
IMEX takes place annually in Las Vegas, as it has since its inception 10 years ago. It’s the largest domestic meetings industry event that we participate in, and Meet Minneapolis shares a trade show booth with the Bloomington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visit Saint Paul and several hotel partners over the course of three days of prescheduled appointments with potential buyers.
We attend events like IMEX primarily for business recruitment and retention opportunities. However, with cities in our competitive set exhibiting at IMEX like Louisville, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Indianapolis, we all take the opportunity to compare notes. Global destinations like Tokyo, Singapore, and Los Angeles were also there with elaborate presentations.
From informal conversations and observations with my counterparts, it is clear our industry has made great strides in its recovery. But recovery is still very uneven.
And then there’s our IMEX host city, Las Vegas. It is not a competitor; however, its activities and performance can serve as a harbinger for the rest of us.
Not surprisingly, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is the most well-funded domestic destination marketing organization at nearly a half billion dollars. That’s about 40 times our budget. But who’s counting? The foundation of the Las Vegs tourism economy is gaming. And the hotels along the Strip generated more than $8 billion in revenue in 2022. Then again, it takes a lot more to feed the beast.
Between October 2023 and February 2024, Las Vegas will have hosted mega events like:
- NASCAR South Point 400
- F1 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix
- National Finals Rodeo
- Pac-12 Football Championship
- Super Bowl LVIII
And the Las Vegas Aces were just crowned WNBA champions for a second straight year. The Las Vegas Raiders play home games in Mortenson-built Allegiant Stadium.
Katy Perry, Usher, Bruno Mars, Keith Urban, U2, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Donny Osmond, Rod Stewart, and a host of others will have had ‘artists in residence’ status in Las Vegas in 2023.
Then add the multiple citywide conventions Vegas can host simultaneously – with two hotels that boast more than one million square feet of space each – and a newly expanded Las Vegas Convention Center with its over two million square feet of exhibit space.
This list of events may seem excessive until you dig deeper to see that the total number of hotel rooms in Las Vegas is approaching 160,000. To remain optimally profitable, approximately 90% hotel occupancy is needed for that city.
Beyond the empirical data, anecdotal information is also worth noting. An Uber driver, who hailed from Bulgaria, provided me his take on the Las Vegas recovery. He shared that Vegas pricing has kept many people away, and he sees a continued shortfall of visitors compared to pre-pandemic levels. This frontline perspective belies the numerous construction sites, traffic gridlock and throngs of people.
One thing we have in common with Las Vegas, albeit on a smaller scale, is the need for major events to drive visitor counts and hotel occupancies. We achieved many new post-pandemic milestones this summer with our major conventions and sporting events, along with headline talent like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, and Pink. Our AL Central champion Minnesota Twins drove traffic downtown as well as our Minnesota Lynx.
So, the recent trek to the city known for its excess and access served the purpose of filling our pipeline of future business opportunities and providing a look into what we need to do to continue to facilitate our recovery.