On a day on which Ontario’s cottage country was actually hotter than Las Vegas, it seemed only fitting that a team of suppliers and tourism officials from the latter city met with a group of Canadian trade representatives in Muskoka to talk travel. The two-day retreat early this week at the JW Marriott on Lake Rosseau was also meant to symbolize Sin City’s current tagline: “Las Vegas Unplugged.”
The Vegas team included representatives from Caesars Entertainment, Fontainebleau Las Vegas, Indigo (show attractions), Resorts World, The STRAT Hotel Casino & Tower; The Venetian, Travel Nevada, Wynn and Encore, while the Canadian roster included Air Miles, Air Canada/ACV, NGH/Tai Pan Tours; Perkopolis, Porter Escapes, TravelBrands/Red Tag, SellOffVacations, Travel Leaders Network, tripcentral.can, WestJet Vacations, and select media including Travel Industry Today.
Together, the groups wined and dined, took part in a poker-themed treasure hunt, cooking class challenge, and chilled out, literally, at the resort’s Dan Aykroyd-branded Crystal Head Vodka Ice Bar – in between bites of s’mores at the campfire.
Attendees were also treated to nature walk through the budding fall colours, overlooking the spectacular lake.
More typically, a traditional speed-dating session facilitated official business, though the overall point of the unique getaway was to help attendees bond outside the boundaries of the boardroom.
Fernando Hurtado of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority declared the event “phenomenal” and said the concept replicated recent events in Mexico and Brazil, and most recently “Camp Vegas” In the UK.
“It’s a chance to bring our top operators and top sellers together to have a chance to rekindle relationships as well as connect outside of work,” he told Travel Industry Today, adding that in such circumstances conversations tend to be “more organic” and “more meaningful.”
Sam Youssef of TravelBrands agreed the event was great for enhancing relationships with both familiar and new partners by providing a unique and creative environment, such as the team- building exercise of planning, cooking, presenting, and then eating a meal during the “Black Box Cooking Challenge,” with the winning team members each earning a three-day, two-night stay at Caesars Palace.
“It’s much better than a PowerPoint presentation,” Youssef smiled.
Anju Bliss of Travel Leaders Network praised the LVCA for organizing he event and said it was a good opportunity two liaise with Canadian partners as well. “You get to spend more than 10 minutes (during the speed dating sessions) with them and get to know them. It’s wonderful.”
Altogether the delegates were working to boost business to a destination that has lost its No. 1 status for the first time in forever (to Mexico) in 2022, albeit under the mitigating circumstances of the pandemic.
Nevertheless, Hurtado says, Canadian capacity has nearly reached pre pandemic levels with the addition of service from new carriers like Flair, Canada Jetlines, and Lynx, plus new flights from WestJet from Victoria and Kelowna, and that 2023 visitations are already up 49% – putting the city on pace to surpass 2019 (1.4 million), resulting in Canada claiming top spot again in international arrivals.
And just in case the s’mores don’t do it, the mission was moving on to Ottawa and Montreal.
Las Vegas takeaways
Here are some of takeaways for the Canadian travel trade shared by suppliers at ‘Las Vegas Unplugged’:
Caesars Entertainment: Located in the heart of the Strip, Caesar’s incorporates nine properties, including the new Horseshoe (formerly Bally’s). The brand is well-known throughout the US, but less known to Canadians. In other Caesars’ news, Paris is gaining a new tower (the Versailles, which is being transferred from the Horseshoe). Agents are recommended to register at Caesarstravelpartners.com for collateral and commission on bookings.
Fontainebleau Las Vegas: Direct from Miami Beach, the famous Fontainebleau brand takes residence in Las Vegas as of Dec. 13, the first incarnation of the hotel outside Florida. At 67 storeys, the 3,644-room hotel, which promises “a new take on Las Vegas luxury” will be the tallest building on the Strip, and will feature 34 restaurants and bars, seven pools, lavish spa, and a LIV nightclub. Reservations are now open.
Resorts World Las Vegas: Available through WestJet Vacations in Canada, Resorts World is three hotels in one resort – a four-star Hilton and five-star Conrad and Crockfords (part of Hilton LXR), the latter brand imported from London and described as an ultimate ultra-luxury property that features a more curated, personalized experience for guests, including a custom tea service upon check-in.
The STRAT Hotel Casino & Tower: The newly “top to bottom” renovated hotel’s adjacent 112-storey tower is to Vegas what the CN Tower is to Toronto and includes “Big Shot” and “Sky Jump” attractions, plus a revolving restaurant that offers 360-degree views of the city skyline and desert beyond (not to mention guests plunging past while on the Sky Jump). Room rates are less expensive than others on the Strip and guests can get 50% off the attraction tickets, prompting the hotel’s rep to quip that visitors “can get terrified for half price!” But book ahead for the restaurant, it’s the fifth busiest in North America.
The Venetian: The largest hotel on the Strip is revelling in its ideal location adjacent to The Sphere, Vegas’s new “it” attraction, which opened on the weekend with a concert by U2, who is in residency at the giant multi-use marvel. Guests can now request a “Sphere-view” room (in addition to Strip-view) at an upgraded price, and a walkway leads guests from the hotel to the venue. Soon packages will be available that include Sphere events.
Travel Nevada: Citing a mission to promote the state beyond its most famous destination, Travel Nevada has rolled out a “road trip capital” theme with 10 unique and varied trips for visitors, some of them utilizing Las Vegas as a starting point. The trips’ comprehensive itineraries make great tours for travel advisors to suggest and sell and can be found on travelnevada.com. Agents can also become a “Nevada Trailblazer” through the tourist board’s short and easy specialist course, which entitles graduates to FAM possibilities and access to assorted collateral material.
Wynn and Encore: Boasting the only golf course on the Strip (though be prepared to fork out about $800/round), sister properties are both newly renovated, with Wynn making claims to be “the” luxury property in Vegas. A popular add-on for guests are buffet offers that give a $50 credit towards the quintessential Las Vegas dining experience.
First published at Travel Industry Today