Broadcasters Cancel Las Vegas Convention, ‘Not a Good Sign,’ Expert Says

The National Association of Broadcasters canceling its upcoming convention in Las Vegas over COVID-19 concerns is “not a good sign for the recovery” in Southern Nevada, a tourism expert says.

National Association of Broadcasters
National Association of Broadcasters
A worker puts finishing touches on a display at the 2018 NAB show in the Las Vegas Convention Center. The annual show attracts broadcasters from television, radio, and online outlets. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Amanda Belarmino, an assistant professor at UNLV, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal the city “must manage the perception of our potential guests” during the recovery. As Las Vegas attempts to bounce back from pandemic-related economic woes, the tourism-dependent city has led the nation in unemployment among large metropolitan areas. The loss of a major convention could stymie a quick economic turnaround, experts said.

“This is not a good sign for the recovery, but the continued influx of leisure guests indicates that this may not be a prevailing concern for all travelers,” Belarmino said. She teaches in the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality.

While the number of leisure travelers has increased in recent months, the all-important convention and international-travel categories have been flat since the March 2020 onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Conventioneers and international visitors spend more money than leisure travelers and help fill up hotel rooms during the slower middle of the week, officials said. Since 1999, Las Vegas casinos have made more money from conventions and hotel amenities than from gambling revenue, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In announcing the cancellation, Chris Brown, an executive vice president for the National Association of Broadcasters, said a surge in the delta variant “has presented unexpected and insurmountable challenges.”

Past NAB shows have attracted as many as 100,000 attendees to Las Vegas, making it one of the largest and most important in the city. This year’s event was to take place in October.

The convention has been rescheduled to take place in Las Vegas from April 23-27, 2022, Brown said.

Key to Recovery

Brendan Bussmann of Global Market Advisors told the Las Vegas Review-Journal the NAB cancellation “will only further elongate our recovery.”

“Meetings and conventions are one of the key components to our long-term recovery and getting back to normal,” he said.

Bussmann noted it will be “some time before business is fully back in Las Vegas.”

Once this latest curveball gets cleared, there is no doubt in my mind that the pent-up demand to do business face-to-face will come roaring back,” Bussman told the newspaper.

Some conventions, including the large CES show early next year, are still scheduled to take place. However, at least one other key event, the Professional Bull Riders World Finals championship, is pulling out of Las Vegas after this year. That group is moving its marquee competition to Fort Worth, Texas.

As this focus on the importance of conventions occurs, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) has issued a directive exempting large events from COVID-19 mask requirements if all in attendance are vaccinated.

International Visitors Absent

Josh Swissman of Strategy Organization told the newspaper the NAB depends on international attendees for its event. That segment largely would have been a no-show this year. 

“Historically, shows like NAB have a very big international contingent in terms of visitation and show attendance,” he said. “All you need to do is look at the current McCarran airlift into and out of the city to know that international air travel is really almost nonexistent, and that goes even more so with destinations or countries like China, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.”

The few international visitors to Las Vegas in recent months have arrived on airlines based in Mexico.

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