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A Message of Unity and Strength from the Meeting Industry at IMEX America

A Message of Unity and Strength from the Meeting Industry at IMEX America

Leaders from the meeting and event, hospitality and travel industries rallied with a unified voice Tuesday at IMEX America, sending a message of support to Las Vegas and a commitment to keep bringing business to the city.

“Last week at 10:05, Las Vegas as we know it, our lives were shattered,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). “At the same time, our lives were united.”

It was just more than a week ago when a shooter on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest festival across the street, killing 58 people in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Another 500 people were injured.

Meeting and event industry leaders, many in La Vegas for IMEX America—the industry’s largest annual trade show—and cognizant of the stigma that such a horrendous incident can have on a community, stood together to back their colleagues and friends in Las Vegas.

Ralenkotter was joined on stage by Ray Bloom, chairman and founder of the IMEX Group; Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association; Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International (which owns the Mandalay Bay); and David Peckinpaugh, president of Maritz Global Events.

By the end of the press conference, the five were joined on stage by nearly 50 members of Meetings Mean Business, an industry-wide coalition to showcase the value that business meetings, trade shows, incentive travel, exhibitions, conferences and conventions bring to people, businesses and communities. Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International, and Richard Harper, executive vice president of HelmsBriscoe, are co-chairs of the coalition.

“When we first heard the news, we reached out and gave our full support to Las Vegas,” said Bloom, who has brought IMEX America to the city for the seventh straight year. “It was very important to come to Vegas this week. We know they are hurting and it was important to come together.”

IMEX America draws 5,500-plus global event professionals and 3,200-plus exhibitors from about 150 countries to Las Vegas for education, networking and face-to-face business meetings.

Convention and meeting attendance in Las Vegas reached a record 6.3 million visitors in 2016, according to the LVCVA, directly supporting an estimated 54,800 jobs paying US$2.3 billion in wages and salaries. The LVCVA reported an economic impact of $12.4 billion to the local economy.

“We were concerned about the convention business,” Ralenkotter said. “IMEX said they would be there for us. We’ve had no cancellations.”

Murren was emotional as he spoke, acknowledging the impact not only to the community but the toll on the team at his hotels. He praised his team’s perseverance and performance in the aftermath, not only caring for guests, but through many heroic measures with those attending the event. He pointed out that his employees, like those of other properties in Las Vegas, depend on meetings and events for their livelihood.

“I don’t know if anyone can be fully prepared for this, but I do know that we are not alone,” he said. “IMEX being here is really beautiful, especially what we’ve been through. We will work to heal this city. Thank you for being here, for your expressions of love and support and your presence.

“We’ve heard from people all over the world asking what they can do to help. You’re doing what you can do being here.”

About the Author

Rich Luna

Rich Luna is director of publishing for MPI and editor in chief of The Meeting Professional.