LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The self-proclaimed “most powerful tech event in the world” opens its doors inside the Las Vegas Convention Center Tuesday, the same building that garnered “monumental” attendance numbers last year that could “level off” during construction over the next two.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is approaching half a century in Vegas, which is anticipated to gather over 130,000 attendees over four days this year. Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) President and CEO Steve Hill says a third of attendees will come from outside the country.
“Frankly, Las Vegas, to some extent, has grown because of CES,” Hill said inside the convention center’s South Hall Monday morning, discussing the tech show’s Tuesday return. “There’s virtually nothing that would be here the week after New Years if CES was not here. We haven’t had to experience that in 40-some years.”
The show has since moved into the contemporary West Hall of the convention center, which debuted in 2021. Efforts to extend this contemporariness to the rest of the building are now a third of the way done and cost $600 million to do.
LVCVA began this multi-year renovation project in mid-2023, targeting its south, north, and central halls. Hill acknowledges the central hall, for one, has not seen significant upgrades since it opened roughly 65 years ago.
Multiple attempts for this overhaul fell flat just as the 2008 recession and 2020 COVID-19 pandemic seeped in, according to Hill. Nine months later, the entire south hall is now the first area to see renovations complete.
“What this does really is open this part of the convention center up to smaller shows that we really haven’t been able to fit into this part of the building,” Hill said.
As areas of the central and north halls soon will see construction, Hill acknowledges incoming shows may have to adjust because of the dust. Work will persist through 2025, but Hill says its largest trade shows are still on the 2024 calendar.
Though the convention center itself hosted approximately 1.2 million attendees last year, convention attendance in Southern Nevada has not yet reached pre-pandemic numbers as a whole. LVCVA Research Center numbers show the nearly 6.65 million people hosted in 2019 dropped to around 1.72 million people in 2020 before rebounding to almost 5 million in 2022.
2023 end-of-year numbers are expected sometime this month by the research center.
“Attendance here will probably level off in ’24 and ’25,” Hill said, speaking about growing the local convention industry amidst construction. “We’re projecting 1.3 million attendees (at the convention center) next year, which is actually pretty healthy growth.”
But, Hill indicates he’s not worried about potential disruptions to one of the most pinnacle aspects of the strip’s economy as he believes heightening the business traveler’s experience will yield favorable returns, like maintaining its “number one convention center in the U.S.” title by the Wall Street Journal.
“In order to make those properties make financial sense at the grandeur that they provide, you have to fill those rooms all the time and not just on the weekends,” Hill said, referring to the convention’s hand in filling over 150,000 hotel rooms during the week. “When you have a show in Las Vegas, attendance increases by 9 or 10 percent. We think that that can go up if the experience is what they expect.”
Currently there are 51 trade shows on the 2024 Las Vegas Convention Center Calendar, which is three more than in 2023.