Las Vegas fights to stay king of convention cities - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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Las Vegas fights to stay king of convention cities

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The Las Vegas Convention Center, seen in this undated image, hosts many trade shows throughout the year. (File/FOX5) The Las Vegas Convention Center, seen in this undated image, hosts many trade shows throughout the year. (File/FOX5)
The Orange County Convention Center, in Orlando, is billed as the nation's second-largest convention center. (File/FOX5) The Orange County Convention Center, in Orlando, is billed as the nation's second-largest convention center. (File/FOX5)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

In the convention business, Las Vegas is king.

For the past 20 years, the city has been ranked as the top trade show destination.

Last year, trade shows brought in more than five million people to Sin City, $7.4 billion of non-gaming economic impact and supported more than 61,000 jobs.

"A lot of times you say to people, 'When did you come to Las Vegas?' or 'Is this your first time?' said Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. "Many times, they'll answer, 'I came here for whatever show, trade show, convention or meeting, and I came back here because I realized how much the destination has to offer.' So, it's a really good introduction to what Las Vegas is all about."

Las Vegas touts three of the largest convention centers in the world and more hotel rooms at the best properties than any other city.

Just being the best isn't enough, said former Las Vegas Mayor turned tourism advocate Oscar Goodman.

"We always have to be ahead of the curve," Goodman said. "We ask them, 'How can it be better. How can we make it better for you?' because they know what they need in order to have a successful meeting."

Other cities are doing whatever they can to steal conventions away from Las Vegas, especially Orlando. It is not only home to Disney World, but the city also boasts the second largest convention center in the country behind Chicago.

Orlando has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in facilities, infrastructure and revitalizing entertainment options that appeal to all ages.

"The conventioneer is looking for something to do, [not only] business-related, but also social-related," said All Johnson, executive director or Orlando Venues. "We have one of the best airports. We have the best attractions - family-oriented attractions - and the best hotels."

While Orlando may not publicly say it competes with Las Vegas, for the city to profit, the big shows that come to Sin City have to be moved to the Sunshine State. It's a rivalry that Las Vegas officials don't discount and aren't afraid to engage.

"Oh, forget about it!" said Goodman. "If you want to see Mickey Mouse, go to Orlando. If you want to have a great meeting, come to Las Vegas."

"The town doesn't close down," Tull said. "You can have a great meeting, you can get a lot done during the day, and then you can have a really nice dinner, and still catch a show or provide some entertainment for your participants. So, it's not like you have to rush through your meeting because you're afraid you're going to miss something. The park's not closing."

It's a war with billions of dollars at stake. In the end, there can only be one top convention city. Las Vegas is doing everything it can to hold places like Orlando at bay.

"When you have the very best, it's an easy sell," Goodman said. "We thank them for being here. That's my job as chairman of the host committee - to tell them how much we appreciate the fact they chose us over places like Orlando."

One of the efforts to keep Las Vegas as the king of convention cities is called the Las Vegas Global Business District. The project will add exhibit, meeting and general session space, while creating a multi-modal transportation hub.

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