by Leo Jakobson | January 02, 2015
The luxury side of Las Vegas may have had difficulties during the recession, but it is back -- big time. According to Cvent, nine of the top 10 most popular meeting resorts in America are located on the Las Vegas Strip.

The meeting-technology and venue-selection company's annual list of the "100 Most Popular Meeting Resorts in North America" and the Caribbean, released in October 2014, reserves the top spots for some of the most opulent and upscale resorts in Las Vegas. The No. 1 spot went to MGM Resorts International's ARIA Resort & Casino at CityCenter, followed by The Venetian and Palazzo Resort, Hotel, and Casinos at No. 2, and Bellagio Las Vegas at No. 3. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was fourth and the MGM Grand Resort & Casino was fifth, followed by Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Las Vegas, Wynn Las Vegas, Caesars Palace Las Vegas, and The Mirage.

During the downturn, "Las Vegas got hit harder than just about any area out there, and we've probably had the biggest rise back," says Eric Bello, vice president of sales for Las Vegas Sands, which owns The Venetian and Palazzo. He predicts 2015 will be a record-breaking year for his group business.

The high end of the meetings business "is back with a vengeance," adds Meg Fasy, vice president of sales at Bellagio. "Our lead sources are coming in very strong and there is a thirst for luxury again. But it's changed a bit in [people] wanting less fluff and more service. People are really looking for a high level of service when they are planning meetings. They know their employees or customers are working very hard -- it's a high level of stress at work these days -- and they want to be able to offer them service in their meetings. I think that is why people are going to luxury properties again, because that is where the service is."

Beyond that, the size of meeting groups coming to Las Vegas has also been growing, says Bob Morse, president of hospitality of Caesars Entertainment. Its flagship Caesars Palace Las Vegas, which has 300,000 square feet of meeting space, has seen steady growth in group size.

The reliable, spacious, and luxurious offerings to the meetings market are not just available at Las Vegas' well-established luxury resorts like ARIA, The Venetian and The Palazzo, Bellagio, and Caesars Palace. At SLS Las Vegas, Sam Nazarian's highly anticipated, Philippe Starck-designed luxury resort that opened in August, has "seen almost more business than we anticipated," from a group standpoint, says Robert Filipelli, executive director of sales for SLS. "There is lots of excitement. It is keeping us extremely busy. Even for big citywide events, a lot of folks are using our venues for entertaining clients. We are really different and people like the idea that they can have 'different' but high end."

Of course, the also want to do business. "The folks who come here to meet are meeting," Filipelli says. "They are making sure business is done, then they enjoy themselves."