MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren and other local and international tourism executives spoke Tuesday about the mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, to thank those who responded to the tragedy and also to reassure people that the shooting hasn’t damaged Las Vegas’ image among travel industry professionals.
Murren spoke at a press conference at the Sands Expo, just down the hall from the meeting rooms where people were gathering for the first day of IMEX America, a convention for the incentive travel, meetings and events industry business.
In what were his first extended remarks since the shooting, Murren thanked the members of IMEX and other executives from the tourism industry for attending the press conference and commented on the coincidence that a meeting of convention professionals was being held in Las Vegas a little over a week after the shooting.
“IMEX being here is really beautiful, almost poetic, given what we’ve experienced in the last few days,” Murren said, noting the the thousands of humane acts he witnessed after the shooting. “We are heartbroken but not broken,” he said. “And we are working together to heal this city, this industry.”
Murren was joined at the presser by Ray Bloom, chairman of IMEX; Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO and president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, David Peckinpaugh, president, Maritz Global Events; and Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
“This affects all of us,” Dow said. “We have watched other communities deal with this, whether it was Boston or whether it was Orlando. You watched them come from a one-off incident like this and say we’re not going to let this define us.”
After the afternoon event, Michael Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer for MGM, said his company has only seen a few cancellations since the massacre. Those were out of concern for the propriety of holding certain events in the days immediately after the shooting, he said.
“I do see those same groups looking at future dates and wanting to come back,” Dominguez said.
Earlier Tuesday morning, Dow and IMEX CEO Carina Bauer also attended the monthly LVCVA meeting to describe their organization's reaction to the massacre and to reassure the board that the shooting has not changed their confidence in Las Vegas.
Bauer said the shooting happened while her organization was preparing for the Las Vegas show from their offices in Brighton, U.K. While they fielded questions from exhibitors and others asking about security, there were no cancellations, Bauer said.
“We woke up to it,” she said. We’re eight hours ahead. Of course when we got into the office, the staff started asking questions. And we started getting calls and emails, not perhaps as much as you would expect. It was not overreacting. They just were wanting to know what security situation was, what precautions were in pace, what the situation was out here and what was happening on the ground. We made sure they knew nothing was changing and the show was still going on.”
MGM senior VP fields security questions from meeting planners
Security was an issue for meeting and convention planners before the shooting, said Michael Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer for MGM. “We’ve been talking about this for at least the last 18 months.”
The questions he’s fielded from customers since the shooting, he said, have been very basic.
“Their questions have been, very simply, ‘What are you doing?’” Dominguez said. “And the response from lead law enforcement around the country has been actually our best answer, ‘This could have happened anywhere.’
Dominguez said law enforcement officials believe certain experiences will elevate most entities to the next level of security. “The Manchester bombing changed the game on how we looked at arenas,” he said. “Attacking as we’re exiting the venue changes the game. Now we’re talking about 3-mile radiuses around an arena that you have to secure after people are going.
“Unfortunately, you don’t think about that from a security measure until it happens,” he said. “For outdoor events, that changes what this looks like. Because you’ve never thought about what’s up in the sky (buildings) around you when you looked at securing an outdoor event.”
Because outdoor events are increasingly popular in Las Vegas, Dominguez said, the shooting means much more security work will be required.
“We have to figure out what we can learn and what are we going to bring and what are we going to implement,” Dominguez said.