58°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Las Vegas convention vendors lose business amid coronavirus scare

Updated March 14, 2020 - 9:05 pm

Jesse Jenkins, an audio and video engineer who helps set up displays for major conventions in Las Vegas, hasn’t seen work this scarce since the Great Recession.

While he usually has work scheduled six weeks in advance, he has no jobs lined up after his work at the ConExpo-Con/Ag construction equipment show wraps up Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

He’s not alone. Jenkins, the second vice president of entertainment industry workers union IATSE Local 720, said he has seen other members struggle to find work as conventions continue to alter or cancel plans amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Other convention vendors are facing similar challenges.

“Our work is looking pretty bleak the next two months,” Jenkins said. “It’s scary.”

Industry ‘will be hurting’

The members of IATSE Local 720 are those who work behind the scenes at trade shows in Clark County, making sure things run smoothly by controlling audio and visual effects, setting up monitors, LED walls, and more.

Jenkins said they started losing work about two weeks ago; the 1,700-member union has seen 19 major trade shows canceled or postponed across the county in April or May from the coronavirus outbreak.

Even those that haven’t canceled — like ConExpo — have had exhibitors pull out, which can result in the on-call, hourly union members losing days of work.

“We’ve had 100-by-100-foot booths load in the show and then decide to cancel and leave,” Jenkins said. “The next couple months, my membership will be hurting.”

A dip in convention visitation could be felt throughout the valley. According to data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, conventions brought in 6.5 million people to Las Vegas in 2018, directly supporting roughly 45,000 jobs, $2 billion in wages and $6.6 billion in direct economic impact.

Noelle Haddad-McCann, president of TNG Models, has started to see the effects from canceled jobs over the past couple weeks.

The modeling and talent agency books models for shoots, events and trade shows in Las Vegas and surrounding cities. Last week, the agency lost three bookings for events that were postponed, including ShopTalk at Mandalay Bay. There were also smaller photo shoots with traveling photographers that were canceled, she said.

New convention bookings in the near-term don’t look promising. Haddad-McCann said the agency usually gets between 10 and 15 inquiries on a typical Monday morning, but phone lines this Monday had slowed down.

“It seems like everything is just on pause,” she said. “Companies are hesitant to contract new deals because nobody knows how this virus will affect our city over the next 4-12 weeks. … We’ve already seen a large decrease in new booking inquiries over the last week. It feels like nobody’s coming to Vegas.”

On-site massage service providers are also taking a hit amid the outbreak. While March is one of the busiest times of the year for Las Vegas-based Professional Massage Inc., Vice President Tori Sadiki said the company’s massage therapists are starting to notice business slowing down.

“We’ve seen a small decrease over what we’d typically have this time a year,” she said. “It’s hard to tell because it’s a busy time for us anyway.”

The company’s 500 or so workers have been affected by four convention cancellations or postponements. And tourists’ concerns about skin-to-skin contact during the outbreak has led to a slight dip in business.

“It doesn’t seem like a mass scare or something constantly happening, but there definitely are remarks and some people that are taking that step of caution (and not getting a massage),” Sadiki said.

In the meantime, Sadiki said massage therapists are being extra diligent when cleaning. Workers are making sure customers notice their usual sanitation efforts — wiping down chairs between massages — to put them at ease and now are both sanitizing and washing their hands between each session.

“Being in the health care field, it’s our responsibility to not contribute to the spread of germs,” she said.

‘So many people’ affected

Sadiki is confident there will be continued business in the long term: The company is looking to hire for the World Series of Poker, which kicks off in May.

For massage therapists who were scheduled to work at canceled events, Sadiki said the company can send them out to other locations for work, such as Fashion Show mall or another resort.

But other jobs aren’t so flexible.

Jenkins said that while he doesn’t expect the slowdown in business will last long, he would encourage members to start saving money as the local convention business’ future remains hazy.

Haddad-McCann said she is hoping business picks up again soon but said she’s not sure how long the effects of the virus will last.

The agency has a financial reserve set aside for economic threats — a lesson learned during the Great Recession — but Haddad-McCann said the models will need to start saving their money if work continues to slow down.

“Most of our models have other jobs, too, so hopefully that will help them,” she said. “It’s really scary — conventions are a huge part of our local economy. There are so many people involved that can be affected.”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Small business owners talk about shutdown impact
Small business owners talk about shutdown impact. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Top stories Friday April 3, 2020
Rj Business reporters Bailey Schulz, Subrina Hudson and Eli Segall talk about the top trending stories at the Review-Journal
Caesars furloughing about 90% of US workers
The furloughs come amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted all U.S. commercial casinos to temporarily shut their doors.
Amazon blocks sale of N95 masks to public - VIDEO
Amazon established a new section of its website where U.S.-accredited hospitals or state or federal agencies can apply for supplies. N95 masks, surgical masks, facial shields, surgical gowns, surgical gloves and large-volume sanitizers are among the restricted items. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cars line up for over 4 miles for food
Cars were lined up along Sahara Avenue from Palace Station to South Rainbow Boulevard for food distribution sponsored by Three Square and Central Church in Henderson.
US weekly jobless claims jump to 6.6 million - VIDEO
The U.S. Labor Department reported 6.6 million people filed for unemployment insurance in the past week. A reported 10 million people have filed over the past two weeks. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
When will self-employed get unemployment money in Nevada? - VIDEO
President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act into law March 27. It allows states to expand unemployment insurance benefits, including to independent contractors, self-employed and gig workers. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Free Business Updates
For more information head to: https://www.reviewjournal.com/vegas-business-updates/
Walmart’s new safety measures at stores: Checking temperatures - VIDEO
In an effort to intensify safety measures in their stores, Walmart and Sam’s Club will check the temperatures of all employees as they arrive for work. (Kevin Cannon / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Macy’s to furlough majority of 130,000 employees amid coronavirus closures - VIDEO
On March 30, Macy’s Inc. announced their decision to furlough a majority of their employees and instead move to the “absolute minimum workforce needed.” (Las Vegas Review-Journal
An empty Las Vegas Strip from the air - Drone Video
For the first time in forever, the famed Las Vegas Strip is closed for business amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada construction continues as coronavirus spreads
When Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered Nevada businesses closed, he let construction workers stay on the job, deeming homebuilding and other construction “essential” lines of work.
US weekly jobless claims soar to record-breaking 3.28M - VIDEO
The U.S. Department of Labor released the shattering numbers on Thursday. Jobless claims had been as low as 282,000 the previous week. The 3.28 million jobless claims for last week is more than double the 1.5 million new claims that analysts were expecting. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Worker at Allegiant Stadium tests positive for COVID-19
Construction of Allegiant Stadium is unlikely to affected by the coronavirus outbreak that is having an impact on just about every industry across the Las Vegas Valley. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Casino companies burning through millions daily
RJ reporter Bailey Schulz talks about how much Las Vegas Casino companies are losing and how the Emergency bill could help if they run out of money or need help recouping what was lost.
Albertsons, Walmart, Amazon increase pay amid coronavirus impact - VIDEO
Grocery stores and other retailers have raised employee pay as they work to meet customer demand during the coronavirus pandemic. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police tells nonessential businesses to respect the shutdown - VIDEO
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department reminds businesses in Clark County that all nonessential businesses are to be shut down as mandated by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, due to the coronavirus crises. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Amazon Prime delays are now as long as a month - VIDEO
As of Sunday, many nonessential items ordered with Prime delivery are showing an April 21 delivery date. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fed announces unprecedented actions to stabilize markets - VIDEO
The Federal Reserve announced several new measures on Monday. Among the announced programs is a further commitment of $300 billion "supporting the flow of credit" for Main Street businesses. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lee’s Discount Liquor stores close on Sunday - VIDEO
Lee’s Discount Liquor stores across the Las Vegas Valley closed at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 22, the company announced on Twitter. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local Businesses Message To Customers After Closing - Video
Local movie theaters and stores leave signs on their doors for customers as businesses close after being ordered to shut down.
Valley businesses react to mandatory order to shut down - VIDEO
All non-essential businesses in the Las Vegas Valley have to shut down. We spoke with store owners who would remain open for the benefit of the community and others who were still confused as to why they had to close. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada casino closures impact 206K workers, AGA finds - VIDEO
About 206,000 direct casino employees in Nevada are without work after Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Tuesday mandate, according to the American Gaming Association. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
More Las Vegas Valley grocery stores offer early hours for seniors - VIDEO
A growing list of Las Vegas Valley retailers are offering special shopping hours for seniors in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada casinos closing for 30 days following state order - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak’s unprecedented order on nonessential Nevada businesses will shut down 440 licensed casinos. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wynn CEO and Dr. Rebecca Katz go over coronavirus - Video
The Wynn CEO Matt Maddox and Dr. Rebecca Katz give a warning about the coronavirus in Las Vegas and around the world.
The Bellagio casino floor cleared as guests get ready to leave hotel - VIDEO
The Bellagio casino floor cleared as guests get ready to leave hotel (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tourists upset with MGM Resorts' lack of closure notice - VIDEO
Tourists like David and Emma Walker, who are visiting from Scotland, found out about MGM Resorts' property closures through Google, instead of the Luxor where they are currently staying. The Walkers are upset with how MGM has handled the situation by not making their customers aware of the closures first. (Cassie Soto/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
All Las Vegas MGM casinos, hotels to temporarily close - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International announced Sunday it is temporarily suspending operations at all Las Vegas properties “until further notice” effective Tuesday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars begins layoffs during coronavirus crisis - VIDEO
Documentation obtained by the Review-Journal shows Caesars Entertainment Corp. has begun laying off employees amid reduced travel demand from the coronavirus pandemic. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Cannabis Conference in Las Vegas postponed

The show released a statement Monday stating it is working with the hotel to figure out alternative dates for the event, and registrations and exhibition contracts will be honored for future event dates.

World Game Protection Conference in Las Vegas postponed

The convention, which covers topics associated with risk for casino operators, was going to be held March 23-26 at the Tropicana with an estimated 700 attendees, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Trade show LightFair in Las Vegas canceled

Trade show LightFair 2020 announced Friday it would no longer take place in May but will instead be held later this year if conditions around the spread of coronavirus improves.