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Cancelled conventions to impact Las Vegas economy

Updated March 6, 2020 - 5:34 pm

The Las Vegas convention business is taking a hit as fears of the coronavirus spread.

At least 52,000 fewer business travelers will be coming to Las Vegas, according to expected attendance by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, as a number of organizers cancel upcoming trade shows out of concern over COVID-19.

It’s too early to know the financial impact of the cancellations, but last year the Las Vegas conventions and business meetings generated $6.3 billion of direct economic impact and about 6.6 million business travelers, according to a report from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The LVCVA declined to comment on the cancellations, but a spokesman said the authority and its “resort partners continue to monitor COVID-19 and coordinate with health officials.”

Events Industry Council Chief Executive Amy Calvert said the change of plans will have ripple effects throughout the economy.

“Resorts, convention centers, service (providers) and people offering service through ancillary (channels)…are in jeopardy of lost wages,” she said.

Called off

Firms like software company Adobe, engineering company Aruba Networks and NXT Global, along with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, have canceled their conventions citing coronavirus. Others, like the security industry trade show ISC West opted to postpone their event to a later date.

Calvert said the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization has been making sure its more than 30 U.S. and international members in the exhibit space are staying informed on best practices such as sanitation methods outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization.

“As an industry, we’re just trying to show up in a way that offers a lot of empathy and reminds people that this is a very important global industry,” she said. “We represent over 26 million jobs globally.”

She also noted most events, particularly large-scale conventions, are booked years in advance and any cancellations. or even postponed events. can mean lost revenue for the local economy and convention staff.

A dip in travel demand is set to impact Las Vegas’ tourism market. A survey from investment company SunTrust Robinson Humphrey suggests some Strip properties’ room rates are down 10 percent the week of March 13.

Apocalypse

Many other upcoming Las Vegas conferences are still scheduled to go on as planned.

“This isn’t the zombie apocalypse,” said Geri Wolff, spokeswoman for the Digital Signage Expo, set for April 1-2 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Wolff said some foreign exhibitors have canceled their participation in the Digital Signage Expo, dedicated to digital and interactive display, because of the respiratory illness. But regular attendance is on par with last year, she said. Between 4,000 and 5,000 people are expected to attend.

She wasn’t able to say whether the exhibitors who won’t attend will get any kind of refund, but some shows, like CinemaCon, are offering refunds for attendees or exhibitors who had to cancel because of travel restrictions to the U.S.

CinemaCon, an international gathering for movie theater owners, is still scheduled for March 30 through April 2 at Caesars Palace.

Attendees or exhibitors “based in a country with travel restrictions due to the coronavirus” will be offered full refunds.

It’s already seen about 24 attendees impacted by travel bans with some from the area hit hardest by the virus in China will no longer attend. Yet, the show’s website said “our weekly registration numbers are tracking evenly with where we were at this time last year.”

For those still coming, “all appropriate measures will be taken to ensure the safety and productivity of our delegates and supporters.”

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers, which organizes ConExpo-Con/Ag and the co-located IFPE Show, said the upcoming shows will take place Tuesday through Saturday as planned.

Any cancellations have been limited to China-based companies without U.S. operations, according to Sandra Mason, public relations director for AEM. The group is working with those companies to find a way for them to recoup costs, she said.

“Most of our top exhibitors have been onsite for weeks moving in equipment and setting up their booth space,” according to a post on the CONEXPO-CON/AGG website. “These exhibitors have been following the move-in schedule protocols and we anticipate all exhibitors will be moved in and ready for the shows’ opening day on Tuesday.”

But international and corporate travel restrictions have also impacted planned exhibits for the show with cancellations representing 44,950-square-feet of space, or roughly 1.7 percent of the trade show’s total space, though AEM said it’s been able to resell 15,500-square-feet of show floor space.

The U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said there is no reason to avoid a conference.

“Obviously the traveling public should be exercising caution just as they would for the average flu season,” Dow said in a report released Tuesday. “But for the many of us who have upcoming plans to attend a convention or meeting or go on a family vacation, public health officials have repeatedly said there is no cause to alter those U.S.-based plans at the moment.”

Other conventions still on the docket include:

— Channel Partners Conference & Expo on March 9-12 at The Venetian and the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Event Director Joseph Marks said a webpage has been created to keep registrants informed on steps the show has taken to ensure the safety of those attending.

— The ASD Market Week consumer merchandise trade show is scheduled to take place March 22-25 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The show usually draws attendees from more than 17 countries, but travel restrictions resulted in the closure of part of the exhibition floor dedicated to Chinese exhibitors — dubbed the China Prime Pavilion. About 5 percent of exhibiting companies in general are coming from mainland China, according to a post on the show’s website. A show representative did not respond to a request for comment.

— EXHIBITORLIVE is proceeding as planned with its show March 29 through April 2 at Mandalay Bay. The only exhibitors who have canceled are international firms coming from areas where air travel has been restricted, according to the show’s website. A show representative did not respond to a request for comment.

— The International Pizza Expo is “poised to host our largest show in its 36 year history,” with about 8,000 expected to attend, according to spokeswoman Rebecca Hinton. The show is set to run March 31 through April 2 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Hinton did not address whether there have been cancellations or whether refunds would be considered.

— The National Cannabis Risk Management Association still plans to hold its inaugural NCRMA2020 conference March 22-24 at Bally’s. Considering that “the local government has not issued any warnings or travel restrictions in the state, we will continue to move forward with our inaugural conference,” Tamala McBath, the association’s president, said in a statement. Between 350 and 500 are expected to attend, and the show has not received any cancellations, she said.

— The Nightclub and Bar Show is set to take place March 30 through April 1 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. About 39,000 people are expected to attend, according to the LVCVA. A show representative did not return a request for comment.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands Corp. operates The Venetian and the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.

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