Who Needs a Passport?

Let's face it—the dollar just isn't what it used to be. And with economists debating over whether the United States is headed for an economic recession, in an economic recession, or just experiencing a temporary slow-down, all signs still indicate that your company's CEO may rather have your incentive trip, annual meeting, or other destination event closer to home this year.

Even if you can't go to Paris, or Dubai, or Shanghai, there are still ways to give your event an international flair—by taking your attendees to a themed casino resort. There are plenty of properties to choose from and in destinations such as Las Vegas, attendees could go on a virtual "world tour" without the need for a passport.

One Contract, Six Destinations
Sin City offers a number of destination-themed casino properties. Harrah's Entertainment manages several: Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas and Rio Las Vegas. Each property incorporates its theme throughout on-site restaurants and entertainment options. At the Rio, a Carnival World Buffet is available for groups, as well as a nightly masquerade show parade that floats above the casino floor. The VooDoo steakhouse on the 50th and 51st floor has set menus priced at $65 to $95 per person and features a French-Creole flair.

Harrah's offers planners six properties in Las Vegas that can be accessed with a single contract, minimum, and master bill and boasts of over a million square feet of meeting space and nearly 18,000 guest rooms. So arranging a French-themed outing to Paris Las Vegas can be easily done if your group is staying at one of the other Harrah's properties.

At the Paris property, the 140,000 square feet of meeting facilities are designed in a classic French manner. An amphitheater-style venue called Les Theatre des Artes accommodates up to 1,477 in the Paris theme, and the two-acre rooftop pool is available for private events and features a French garden style. It's also hard to miss the half-scale replicas of the Eiffel Tower, L'Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs-Elysees-style boulevard full of boutique shops. Previous groups that have used the property include Ford Motor Co. with an annual sales and marketing event that draws 1,200 customers and company personnel. Dining on the property also follows the French theme, with fresh breads and croissants baked daily.

Out of this World
Planners interested in using a themed resort to create an international experience for attendees do not have to limit themselves in the bounds of reality. Caesars Palace offers several special venues for private groups that incorporate ancient Greece into the design. The Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis can accommodate up to 4,000 with four pools and numerous fountains spread across four-and-a-half acres. A Roman Plaza sits on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road and can accommodate groups of up to 4,000 in an open-air amphitheater. A new $1 million renovation project is scheduled to add a new 263,000-square-foot meeting and convention center by spring 2009.

Groups headed to Las Vegas may even one day be able to visit the Moon. Billed as the biggest and most expensive hotel ever built on earth, developer Michael Henderson unveiled in 2002 a 10,000-room behemoth called the Moon Resort and Casino. The planned development would feature a "Crater Wave Pool" with spas, and guests could try out lunar cruisers used on the Apollo missions. However, with a $5 billion price tag and a design that requires 250 acres, critics doubt that construction will start any time soon.

Instead of taking top earners or VIPs to Dubai, planners could consider the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City. (The New Jersey State Bar Association is scheduled to hold its 2008 annual meeting there in May.) The 1,250-room property features 155,000 square feet of meeting space, an arena, theater, and 11 restaurants. The property's suites incorporate the theme with marble floors and gilded touches.

Not-So-Far East
A new Crowne Plaza casino development in Las Vegas will use an Asian-style theme, according to an InterContinental Hotels & Resorts release. The 386-room, 31-story property is scheduled to open in 2010 and will feature a casino, three restaurants, three lounges, a full-service spa and swimming pool, as well as a fitness center, business center, and retail. The hotel will also feature 16,000 square feet of meeting and banquet room space.

Atlantic City is also the site of the Tropicana Casino and Resort, complete with palm trees and a Cuban theme. Attendees can sip mojitos at Cuba Libre, a "classic restoration of a 1940s Havana street scene." The property's meeting space can accommodate up to 1,000 for banquet-style meals and the Broadway-style theater can accommodate up to 2,000.

There are many advantages to having an event at a casino, consultants say. With a focus on over-the-top entertainment, top-class food, and decadent celebrations, attendees feel rewarded and special. There are endless options for activities beyond gambling and the properties are generally much larger than other resorts with more rooms available and reasonable rates. Group and meetings business is highly regarded by many casino properties for filling in off-peak, mid-week dates and groups can sometimes get discounts for booking during winter months. Groups also tend to spend heavily on shopping, entertainment and other on-site amenities beyond the casino.

Meetings and conventions also draw a crowd that might not otherwise visit casino destinations, say CVB officials. Casino destinations such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City are within driving distance to large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and New York City.

"These are people who may not otherwise come to Atlantic City. Many of them, as a result of their convention travel, will return with their friends or families. Some will create new revenue streams for the area," says Gary Musich, vice president of convention sales for the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority.

Originally published April 01, 2008

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