Lisa Messina, the very first chief sales officer at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, discusses building back the convention market, women leadership, potential headwinds, and the new attractions groups have to look forward to.
The numbers are staggering. Las Vegas hosted nearly 5 million convention attendees in 2022, and with a robust schedule of meetings, trade shows, and events, it is looking forward to an even stronger 2023. During a normal year, spending by visitors attending conventions directly supports 43,000 jobs in Las Vegas and results in a direct economic impact of $6.6 billion.
There are 4.6 million square feet of space at the Las Vegas Convention Center, 156,000 hotel rooms, and 15 million square feet of meeting and event space in the whole of Vegas, more than any destination in North America.
Lisa Messina is the very first chief sales officer at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), the destination marketing organization for Las Vegas and Southern Nevada that also owns and operates the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC).
Not only is Messina tasked with maintaining the number of convention attendees who met in this space last year, but she must increase this number. Most market segments have recovered post-pandemic, with convention visitation lagging about 25 percent and international visitation yet to return to 2019 levels.
Steve Hill, CEO and president of the LVCVA, hired her with the expectation of helping with the recovery of convention attendance. She is well equipped for this challenge. Her warmth, customer-first sales focus, and energy combined with a background that includes senior vice president of sales at Caesars Entertainment, executive director of intermediary group sales for Hilton Worldwide, and a leadership role at ConferenceDirect.
A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. She serves on the International Board of Directors for Meeting Professionals International.
How Covid Delayed the Opening of Caesars Forum
Messina was part of a Caesars road show traveling across the country leading up to the grand opening of Caesars Forum on March 18, 2020. The day before the opening, she got a call from Michael Massari, chief sales officer of Caesars Entertainment, saying they were being forced to shut down because of the pandemic.
She had just talked to an editor about the amazing customer response to this new venue. Then, less than 24 hours later, everything changed.
A shuttered Strip was surreal, with families biking in the middle of the road.
Trifecta That Will Help Attract Even More Business Events
Formula One is coming to Las Vegas in November, followed by the Super Bowl at Allegiant Stadium in February. Add to that the opening of the $2.2 billion MSG Sphere, and you have a winning trifecta. Messina said these events and venues will benefit meeting and convention planners. She used Allegiant Stadium as an example.
Record Breaking 2023
Messina predicts the financial results of the first quarter will be record-breaking. Although exciting, it is important not to be naïve as a slowdown is a real possibility. It’s important to deliver on brand promises and ensure exceptional service. Labor is in place to meet expectations, and customers find value. However, we can’t turn a blind eye to the possibility of a recession; therefore, business development must not slow down.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling as a Woman
Supporting, mentoring, and encouraging women coming up in the ranks is something Messina is passionate about. She appreciates that the men she worked with early in her career recognized the importance of diversity in the workplace before it was a headline grabber. However, she admits that being the only female in the room was sometimes challenging. It’s crucial women surround themselves with advocates but also those who will be transparent and honest. Honesty and tough talk are important ingredients to improvement.
Getting younger students excited about the meeting and event industry is imperative. According to Messina, enrollment in hospitality programs is at a historic low. She welcomes those who are interested in a potential career in hospitality to connect with her on LinkedIn, where she shares her story and the experiences that await in the hospitality industry.
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