Las Vegas Reopens: The “Unbreakable Human Need to Connect”

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Las Vegas Reopens: The “Unbreakable Human Need to Connect”

By Blair Potter | Jun 3, 2020

As some Las Vegas hotels and resorts reopen on June 4, guests can, of course, expect a somewhat different environment than they’ve previously experienced. You’ll see ubiquitous hand-washing stations, face masks, plexiglass screens, social distancing signage and temperature checks—depending on where you go. There will be some pool access, but spa treatments and shows will be off the table for now.

Nevertheless, this is an important step for our industry and a moment that we need to get right. On the eve of the reopening, we spoke with two prominent voices for the meeting industry in Las Vegas about why they’re excited and what guests can expect: Chandra Allison (MPI New Jersey Chapter), senior vice president of sales for The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, and Michael Massari (MPI Sacramento/Sierra Nevada Chapter), chief sales officer for Caesars Entertainment.

Massari says a central focus at Caesars Entertainment has been on ensuring the properties are ready to service meetings and events when the time comes.

“There’s magic in bringing people together.”

“As you can imagine, almost every piece of how you serve a meeting or event has changed, and so the policies and procedures around all that has changed,” he says. “We’ve been working on juggling all of the customers from March to July or August into future dates, making sure that we can still accommodate them. We’ve been working really hard—everybody on the team, whether they have active work or not—making sure we understand what we’re doing and [showing] how much we care about them can’t wait to get them back to the property.”

Massari is particularly excited about the reopening because of the critical role hospitality plays in bringing people together.

“I think I’m like a lot of people that you’ll talk to in this business—we kind of all grew up just loving to serve others, whether that be at the front desk, in a restaurant, behind a bar or, in my case, in meetings and events,” he says. “We’re in the hospitality business because we’re hospitable people, so I think what we’re all looking forward to is getting back to serving others—it’s kind of how we fill our bucket and we haven’t had a chance to fill our bucket that way for 11 or 12 weeks. So we’re quite excited, all of us, to do that.”

Allison says meetings are at the heart of The Venetian Resort, and conversations with customers, cultivating relationships and providing as much information as possible has been critical throughout the current pandemic.

“Education is key in moving forward and ensuring that our team members are equipped with the knowledge of keeping each other and our guests safe, while executing successful events is our top priority,” she says. “There’s magic in bringing people together and that’s what I’m looking forward to—bringing people together for meetings, networking and connections.”

Since guest and staff safety has always been the No. 1 priority, ensuring that safety means things will look and feel a bit different as things begin to open up, Massari says.

“Working with all of our local, state and county government; going through all of the CDC guidelines; and making sure that we’re partnering up with epidemiologists to understand what we need to do to keep that safety as our No. 1 priority is what we’ve been spending a ton of time on,” he says. “You’ll see sit-downs instead of buffets, you’ll see packaged instead of unpackaged food, you’ll see waiters and food servers at water stations and coffee stations where you hadn’t seen them in the past. You’ll see hand-washing stations, you’ll see extra Purell stations, you’ll see table sets looks different. Really, as you enter a meeting room, almost everything that you look at will be slightly different than it was six months ago.”

Survey: When is your next face-to-face event?

Allison says that is important to think through the entire attendee journey when planning for safe live events to return.

“Once you’ve mapped out consistent activities from beginning to end, you can start to identify what we call ‘touch points,’” she says. “In doing this exercise, we have found that there are areas that are sometimes taken for granted—we do it this way because we always have. For each aspect of a meeting, there is often an obvious non-contact or minimal-contact approach. Thankfully, today’s technology also gives us plenty of options. Some innovations have been around for a while, like the scanning of attendee badges in lieu of handing out business cards. Other simple ideas address areas you might not have considered. For instance, one of our team members identified that an A/V tech who is setting up computers for a trade show registration desk often briefly touches every keyboard to log it in. We suggest using a fresh piece of transparent plastic film over each keyboard, which not only eliminates the transfer of germs, but also eliminates the need to spray a keyboard as often with sanitizer, which can potentially shorten its lifespan.”

Massari says that the only way to solve any significant problem is to work really closely together with all of the people involved. And getting through the coronavirus pandemic is no different.

“So you’ve got meeting planners, you’ve got meeting sponsors, you’ve got attendees, you’ve got facility managers like us. The partnership that takes place between those parties is really the critical piece of all this,” he says. “When that partnership is open and honest and strong, almost anything can get solved. My advice to meeting planners is the same that I would give to my people: Make sure that partnership is strong and open and honest and transparent, and we’ll all figure this out together. We all want the same thing. We all want live events to happen in a manner that people feel very comfortable with. So we’re all on the same page.”

Massari says the fact that so many bright people are planning for how to bring our society back from this pandemic and the gravitational pull of the human spirit give him confidence that we will get through this together.

“Make sure that partnership is strong and open and honest and transparent, and we’ll all figure this out together.”

“Think about all of the different places where this is trying to be solved,” he says. “It’s trying to be solved at your local church. It’s trying to be solved at your sporting events. It’s trying to be solved at the Democratic and Republican national conventions this summer. It’s trying to be solved at Disneyland. And it’s trying to be solved at CAESARS FORUM and all Caesars Entertainment properties. There’s this unbreakable human need to connect and these incredibly bright people all trying to figure out this problem at the same time. I wake up every day confident that the problem will get solved. The human spirit has this kind of gravity pull towards connection, right? Sitting down face to face with someone who’s important to you—the energy that you get from being in someone else’s presence and the feedback that you get from others. So I think that gravitational pull will bring us back together.”

Allison says they’ve adopted a new, unexpected tradition The Venetian Resort.

“In developing our new Venetian Clean guidelines, we quickly identified that while wearing a face mask, it becomes difficult to share a warm smile with our guests,” she says. “In the absence of this moment of connection, we have adopted a single hand over our hearts as a greeting to our guests and to one another. We always talk that The Venetian was inspired by love and the spirit of Italy, which is reflected in everything we do. This new tradition is the perfect nod to our Italian heritage. Now more than ever, we are committed to sharing our love as much as possible.”

Learn more about how Caesars Entertainment and The Venetian Resort are keeping guests and staff members safe.



Blair Potter
Blair Potter

Blair Potter is managing editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).