From lakeshore to casino rooftop deck, groups are coming back to Reno and Tahoe
To borrow a phrase from the John Legend song “Green Light,” visitors are showing that they are ready to go back to the renovated meeting spaces and outdoor adventures awaiting in the growing destinations of Reno, Nevada, and nearby Lake Tahoe.
Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority announced in May that the destination is significantly closer to returning to 2020 pre-pandemic levels of occupancy than the national average. Over the first quarter of 2021, booked rooms were only off record highs by 14.7 percent compared to a 31 percent decline recorded nationwide. And room rates actually increased as much as 8 percent. Since the state opened up even more starting June 1, demand could go even higher.
New RSCVA President and CEO Charles Harris attributed the return to leisure travel to the destination’s wide-open spaces, outdoor amenities and proven safety protocols, which research company Destination Analysts found is what “travel intenders” are currently looking for in their first post-Covid trip.
“Reno-Tahoe is well-positioned and well-equipped for eager travelers taking to the roads and airways in 2021,” said Harris. “Northern Nevada has been somewhat insulated due to the destination’s outdoor amenities, arts and culture, and the draw of gaming entertainment. The growth of business travel via an enhanced and diversified economy, along with the phenomenal work to grow and maintain flights at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, is also directly contributing to the relative, sustained success.”
Not far behind those summer vacationers is an influx of booked conferences. At the end of May, Harris announced three prestigious groups coming to town, an economic impact of $18 million.
USA Climbing will bring 500 competitors, representing more than 5,000 room nights for the 2021 Youth National Championships this month. Competitions will be staged at Reno-Sparks Convention Center and Mesa Rim Reno.
In a quick pivot, Airports Council International (ACI) shifted their planned November 2021 Annual Conference & Exhibition from Toronto, due to Covid-related travel restrictions in Canada, to Reno. More than 800 North American airport executives are expected for networking, discussing industry trends and finding solutions to benefit the future of air travel. Officials from the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority are also working closely with ACI on its JumpStart event, which will be held in Reno-Tahoe in June 2022. The group is expected to return to Toronto in 2025.
Shriners International Imperial Session will bring more than 3,500 Shriners and guests to Reno in 2024 for a week-long event that celebrates the work for Shriners Hospitals for Children.
“We’re currently experiencing a pattern where the post-pandemic model for short-term sports event bookings is being replicated by conventions and trade shows. When you look at the short-term recovery, and incorporate the apparent return of traditional, long-term booking windows, this is a wonderful sign for Northern Nevada’s tourism economy and for the travel industry in general,” said Harris.
Smart Meetings looked at the new and renovated properties waiting for returning visitors and found a lot to get excited about.
The Biggest Little City in the World is gaining a reputation as Silicon Valley in the Desert as more than $1 billion is being invested in world-class resorts, entertainment and meetings infrastructure over the next few years.
Companies as diverse as Tesla’s lithium-ion battery Gigafactory, a Chewy.com warehouse and massive medical centers are making their home in the region, increasing demand for meeting experiences.
The city is investing $30 million in infrastructure modernization downtown. The Arch District, by the Biggest Little City sign, is now home to 5,000 guest rooms, 230,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 12 live entertainment venues. Nearby, Old Brewery District is nurturing an emerging brewery row and Riverwalk District flanks Truckee River with more than 35 restaurants, bars and cafes.
Open for Business
After finalizing the merger with Eldorado Resorts, Caesars Entertainment is unveiling a $47 million renovation of 1,199 rooms at Silver Legacy Resort Casino this summer. The property is part of what is being rebranded The Row with Eldorado Resort Casino and Circus Circus Reno and will stake out four city blocks with 25 restaurants, 22 bars and 227,000 sq. ft. of casino space.
Grand Sierra Resort and Casino is preparing for the return of festival season, according to Mark McMinn, vice president of meeting and event sales. Reno Rodeo, Hot August Nights and others draw crowds to the property that is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar property enhancement, including the addition of a pool deck and new arrival experience that will greet returning groups to the property’s 200,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 1,990 guest rooms.
Meanwhile, Atlantis Casino Resort Spa (824 guest rooms and 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space) announced it’s among the first casino resorts in Nevada to become Sharecare Health Security VERIFIED with Forbes Travel Guide.
CAI Investments is going vertical with construction of a new 270-room Kimpton hotel as part of a mixed-use project with 20,000 sq. ft of meeting space downtown. And Reno Land Inc. is moving ahead with Reno Experience District (RED), a 46-acre master-planned community with luxury apartments, artisan shops, dining and curated entertainment. The open-concept market hall and unnamed 170-room hotel and coworking loft will skirt a two-acre central park with an amphitheater and LED display as part of a tech campus. Expect multiple rooftop lounges at the south end of Midtown.
Now that California and Nevada have lifted Covid restrictions, both sides of Stateline are showing off their hospitality upgrades. The big news? A new, much-anticipated 132,000-square-foot Tahoe South Event Center is starting to take shape near MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa. The $100 million project will host concerts, sporting events and entertainment, supported by 2,200 hotel rooms in the area.
Open for Business
Caesars Entertainment-owned Harrah’s Lake Tahoe’s 512 guest rooms and Harveys Lake Tahoe’s 740 guest rooms were updated as part of a $41 million investment that included upgrades in the 26,600-square-foot conference center at Harrah’s. Up next are 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting spaces at Harvey’s. One improvement that made its debut just before the pandemic slowdown was the opening of a Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen, which continues the fire-and-ice theme from other cities but with a mountain twist.
Next door, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe’s 539 guest rooms and 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space is back in action with live shows on the calendar. Director of Sales Kimberly Templeton sees Lake Tahoe as the perfect return-to-meeting spot because of the fresh-air access, with Lake Tahoe just minutes away from the ballroom.
Nestled between casino and water action is the stately Edgewood Tahoe, where a legendary golf course and 154-room, upscale lodge with 8,000 sq. ft. of meeting space overlook the crystal-clear Alpine reservoir. Diane Rettos, director of group sales, directs meeting professionals to consider the outdoor spaces, as well, since the mountain peaks make marvelous team-building backdrops.
On the California side, Resort at Squaw Creek boasts 405 guest rooms and 33,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space and another 14,700 sq. ft. of outdoor space with what Director of Sales Monica Hubert, CFBE, calls nothing short of “the most stunning scenery in North America.” From golf, kayak and mountain bike excursions in the summer to skiing and snowshoeing adventures in the winter, the outdoors is part of the experience year-round. It is part of Hyatt’s Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment and comes with a GBAC STAR accreditation.
Nearby, The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers 181 guest rooms and 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space mid-mountain for ski/hike in-and-out access. A new Lake Club on the North Shore offers an escape for groups of up to 40 guests with an outdoor whirlpool, fireplaces and water sports on the private boat pier.