Las Vegas has long led the reinvention of the meetings and convention experience. With thousands of groups arriving every year, “new” is a necessity, and the words “out with the old” are practically built into the city’s DNA.
In 2020, however, the allure of a new hotel or convention space is no substitute for safety and security. With covid-19 top of mind for visiting business groups and trade shows, the current reinvention of Las Vegas will assuage their concerns about health and hygiene, while fast-tracking innovative technologies and standards.
“How can we utilize our space? How can we enhance communication? How can we keep people connected when separated? These are the questions we’re answering,” explains Danielle Strong, Associate Director of Catering and Conference Services for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. “We really listened to the science and the guidelines set forth, and we’ve used that to determine the best ways to accommodate every guest.”
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, like the rest of the city, has been adjusting to evolving state mandates for meetings and conventions. In late September, Gov. Steve Sisolak raised the maximum capacity for large gatherings from 50 to 250 people, with the potential for venues to host up to 1,000 attendees provided they are split into groups of 250 and are not allowed to “cross-pollinate.”
Embracing a Hybrid Meeting Model
The revised guidelines not only provide greater flexibility, but they allow The Cosmopolitan to improve upon a hybrid meeting model that’s now central to the resort’s meeting and convention strategy.
Applying the 1,000 attendee threshold to the hybrid business model would see The Cosmopolitan splitting the group into four “pods” of 250 in separate meeting rooms, each with their own entrances/exits and bathrooms. If attendees are at the hotel but cannot be in a meeting physically, they can be there virtually via the televisions in their rooms.
“It’s completely seamless, we have two dedicated channels for meetings and conventions,” Strong says. “Guest rooms are coded to a group code so all content on the channel is shared with that group and only with that group.
“One benefit is that guest rooms are in the same tower – The Chelsea Tower – as the conference space, so guests can maintain social distancing while remaining close to the meeting space.”
Rethinking Food and Beverage Service
Customization has always been key for meetings and conventions organizers, and The Cosmopolitan is taking the practice further with a fresh approach to food and beverage service. Menus with individually packaged “grab and go” meals, plated meals, and plexiglass-encased banquet tables are among the options for group gatherings. Menus throughout The Cosmopolitan are available via QR code, and even the classic buffet line has also been reimagined for meeting attendees.
“The food can be seen, guests tell a server what they want, the server prepares the plate, and they hand it to the guest at the end of the buffet,” Strong says.
Masks and gloves are mandatory for all food preparation, she adds, and guests must adhere to the statewide mask mandate unless seated in a restaurant or another food and beverage location.
Future Is Now
Though the pandemic has dealt Las Vegas numerous setbacks, there are positive takeaways from this refined approach to meetings and conventions.
Enhanced Sanitation Guidelines
“I think there will continue to be a focus on sanitation – overnight cleanings, hand sanitizer stations, etc. – as well as an awareness of shared things, like silverware,” Strong says. “Even after the pandemic, I think those protocols will continue and we’ll be challenging ourselves to be more creative in the way we serve food.”
Strong anticipates overall health of convention attendees to improve, simply because fewer people will be arriving sick.
“With these hybrid solutions in place, guests won’t feel pressured to attend in person,” she says. “People don’t even have to shake hands, because as a society we’ve found it’s acceptable to greet each other in new ways, so we’re passing less germs to each other.”
The Cosmopolitan was already ahead of the game with the introduction of Rose, a “digital concierge” that allows guests to book dinner reservations, connect with room service, and customize their experience from check in to check out.
Rose is always evolving, and Strong says the chatbot can bring more than just peace of mind to anxious convention attendees.
“Rose can send out reminders to attend a session, or remind someone when a conference time has changed,” she says. “We’ve ramped up the touchless solutions, and I believe that’s going to be a huge wave of the future, with less points of contact and less materials handed out, because they’re now shared digitally.”
More than just lessons learned, Strong anticipates many of these innovations made during the pandemic will become symbolic of a new, improved Las Vegas experience.
“We feel confident that we are ahead of the game. That allows us to keep getting better and discover more creative solutions.”