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More than 30 individuals representing Exhibit Designers and Producers Association (EDPA) Las Vegas Chapter member companies gathered on Mar. 19 for an educational meeting at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, which also set the stage for EXHIBITOR Show.

Several members of the EDPA Las Vegas Chapter, including Exhibit City News publisher Don Svehla.

Several members of the EDPA Las Vegas Chapter, including Exhibit City News publisher Don Svehla — circa 2010.

Reinforcing the importance of education, Chapter leaders give back to their communities through their annual golf tournament, which provides the funding for EDPA scholarships. To date, the association has awarded more than 60 scholarships.

“The biggest issue with the scholarship is not getting enough applicants,” said David Walens, president, Brumark, and EDPA member. “We receive less than 20 applicants. Recipients can be more than your dependents. It can happen to anyone.”

Considering the Las Vegas Chapter’s 22 member companies are closely tied to the Las Vegas exhibition and tourism industries, an educational status update was also a necessary part of the agenda.

Comparing and contrasting Las Vegas with other U.S. tradeshow destinations was Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s (LVCVA) Vice President of Customer Experience Hugh Sinnock, who showed that Las Vegas remains No.1 despite recessions and many LVCVA employees going without raises for three years.

For the last five years, the LVCVA’s goal has been to attract 40 million visitors, something it came close to in 2013 with 39.7 million, but its goal is reachable this year, according to Sinnock. Last year, 17 percent of these visitors were international, mostly from Canada, the UK and Mexico.

“Las Vegas visitors have lots of options and price points most other cities don’t have,” said Sinnock. “We have a competitive advantage. Our stays are longer at four and an half days.”

Fifty-seven percent of the visitors who drive to Las Vegas spend less on either of the 150,593 hotel rooms from which they could choose due to a 12 percent room tax that funds the LVCVA. This is lower than Houston’s room tax at 17 percent and Chicago’s at 16 percent or possibly higher, according to Sinnock.

Additionally, Orlando, the No. 2 tradeshow destination, ranks behind Las Vegas in hotel rooms with 110,000. Downtown Chicago has 34,000 hotel rooms.

“We like Chicago and Orlando, but they don’t like us too well. We have the top 10 largest hotels in Las Vegas. It’s hard to fill 365 room nights, but that’s what we do,” Sinnock said. “[LVCVA] is here to fill every building in Las Vegas. We don’t care where that meeting is as long as it’s in Las Vegas.”

Las Vegas holds 21,600 annual events, which contributes a $6.7 billion economic impact. This supports 56,800 jobs.  One of three major Las Vegas venues instrumental in holding these events is the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), the third largest of its kind in the U.S.

To stay competitive, LVCC received a variety of transformations and will continue to do so due to its upcoming Global Business District, a planned expansion that will leverage the convention center’s World Trade Center designation.

The facility received 9 million in Internet-related equipment upgrades from its new technology provider Cox Communications along and its strategic partner showNets.

“We use to have 168 access points, and the infrastructure wasn’t keeping up. We now have 600 access points and will soon have 2,400. We also have a 10 gigabyte redundant backbone. For the last six months, we have been happy. They stepped up,” said Sinnock.

When Cox took over from former provider Smart City Networks, it moved to Las Vegas 1300 employees who replaced switches that were 12-14 years old and will install a Distributed Antenna System in the fall.

“Cox is a huge improvement,” agreed Russell Callahan, show services manager, PRG, and EDPA member. “They look at things in a different way.”

LVCVA also acquired more land for the Global Business District, is working with a transportation committee to improve traffic in the resort corridor and already gave the Las Vegas Convention Center a facelift.

“We didn’t go 50 shades of gray, but we did go two shades,” Sinnock explained the facility’s paint job. “We added canopies for when visitors get off the monorail and received new carpet two years ago.”

Businesses inside the convention center have also grown. The on-site Starbucks doubled in size and sales, generating more sales per hour than any of the other 17,000 Starbucks in the U.S. The venue also renovated other onsite businesses and introduced digital signage.

With more than 300 corporate members from 18 countries, Exhibit Designers and Producers Association provides education, leadership and networking for the advancement of its members and the exhibition industry.

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