Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
The 2010 Consumer Electronics Show isn’t exactly like old times, but the Las Vegas tourism industry has geared up for it with high hopes.
The kickoff event of the city’s 2010 convention calendar is expected to be attended by some 110,000 people — an increase from earlier projections of 100,000 but slightly behind the 111,000 last year.
The event, produced by the Washington-based Consumer Electronics Association, brings the newest, flashiest and glitziest gadgets to a four-day showcase at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Las Vegas Hilton, the Renaissance Hotel and the Venetian’s Tower Suites.
Other hotels planned spin-off activities and special gatherings to accommodate what annually is one of Las Vegas’ largest trade shows.
The event is open only to industry professionals, but with more than 4,000 media representatives credentialed, the public often gets a chance to see what goes on at CES on nationally broadcast morning news shows and by reading newspaper and Internet reports.
CES doesn’t invite the public because the focus of the event is business-to-business contacts, and vendors aren’t geared to demonstrate products to consumers.
Steve Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft, will kick off this year’s show with a pre-CES address tonight.
CES organizers say there’s usually a late push in on-site registration that could bump attendance above the predicted 110,000 — far from the record 150,000 who attended the show in 2006. The expected 2,500 exhibitors for this year’s show is on par with last year, officials said.
But Sarah Myers, a spokeswoman for the show, said many participants that had planned to be at the 2009 show canceled at the last minute when the full weight of the economic downturn hit. Myers said she didn’t expect the same late cancellations this year.
“We just won’t know until just before the show,” Myers said as her group prepared.
Las Vegas is prepared
Trade show contractor GES Exposition Services began getting ready for CES in April, conducting an inventory of lighting, power and audio-visual needs from potential exhibitors.
Lenny Izzo, senior vice president and general manager of western U.S. operations for GES, which has been CES’ general contractor for 30 years, saw the show for the first time last year and this year took the reins of the logistic scramble to set up the show.
Izzo, who formerly drove tanks in the Army, corralled 300 full-time GES employees and 1,500 temporary workers affiliated with four different labor groups for the set-up job.
“The move-in is quite an operation,” Izzo said. “It takes more than three weeks of operation and logistical coordination.”
In the three weeks leading up to CES, workers were at the Convention Center every day except Christmas and New Year’s Day.
GES used an 18-acre marshalling yard at Sunset Road and Las Vegas Boulevard to coordinate the move with many big rigs delivering loads at 4 a.m. to avoid peak traffic as much as possible.
“We officially got in on Dec. 18, mostly with electricians, stagehands, riggers and electrical power distribution experts,” he said.
Dec. 28 was the first day that major anchor exhibitors arrived — about 100 of them with booths larger than 2,000 square feet. By the time they arrived, most of the power supplies, carpeting and truss work were complete.
The next critical date was Jan. 4, when the rest of the exhibitors arrived, many of them bringing their own coordinators and workers.
“It’s quite a flurry,” Izzo said. “That’s why we do the majority of our work prior to Jan. 4.”
The last three days leading up to the opening were 18-hour work shifts, and by the time they were done, there were 90 miles of electrical cable installed and 220,000 amps of power available. Two hundred forklifts were used to move materials around the floor, and more than 500 electricians were at work.
Izzo said his team used a popular CES tool that didn’t exist four years ago — Twitter — to communicate and coordinate the move-in.
While the set-up takes more than three weeks, the tear-down will be concluded in about a week.
“We have special feelings about CES because it’s the shot out of the gate for the new year,” Izzo said. “All eyes turn to Las Vegas and all eyes turn to GES. There’s a great deal of pride being the bellwether for what 2010 is going to look like, and I think that’s what drives our team to perform during the holidays.”
Transportation leaders ready for flood of visitors
The Nevada Taxicab Authority agreed to add 10 cabs per Las Vegas-area company — 140 total — to accommodate the additional people in town, the first time in a year the five-member board authorized additional cabs.
Taxicab Authority administrator Gordon Walker said the board considered that, in addition to the 110,000 people expected for CES, an additional 30,000 people would be attending the Adult Entertainment Industry Expo at the Sands Expo Center at the same time.
At its December meeting, the Taxicab Authority staff recommended against adding cabs, reasoning that the cab industry accommodated more than 140,000 people in town for the Professional Bull Riders event and the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association trade shows in early November.
But the cab companies lobbied the authority board and persuaded members to add cabs to ensure the level of service would be high.
The Las Vegas Monorail Co. also gears up for major conventions by putting the maximum number of trains in service, and CES will be no exception.
Ingrid Reisman, a spokeswoman for the monorail, said in addition to having all nine trains in operation during peak transit times for three hours in the morning and afternoon, monorail workers will be at stations helping customers find their way to the platforms and coordinating the loading and unloading of trains.
CES is expected to be a less expensive proposition for most attendees this year.
Getting to Las Vegas was cheaper for some delegates who flew AirTran, American, Continental, JetBlue and Midwest, which offered discounted fares to those attending the show. Discounts ranged from 2 percent to 10 percent of published fares for delegates flying Jan. 4-7 and 10-13.
Attendees paying less for hotel stays
While some hotels are sold out, others still had rooms available two days before the show, according to the CES Web site.
The weak economy has resulted in hotels cutting rates from last year, when the average daily room rate was $104.89. Through October, Southern Nevada’s average rate was $93.15.
The new dynamic in the room-rate equation is the addition of rooms as a result of the opening of CityCenter and new towers at the Golden Nugget and Hard Rock.
The CES Web site said Aria, Bellagio’s deluxe rooms, Hilton Grand Vacations suites and studios were sold out, as were the contracted CES rates at Encore ($249), Excalibur ($96), Hard Rock’s suites ($229) and Hard Rock’s tower rooms ($199).
But early this week, there were rooms available at the Alexis Park ($79), Circus Circus’ west tower ($92) and all other Circus Circus rooms ($75).
And there were rooms available at hotels that don’t have contracted CES rates. VEGAS.com, a sister company of the Las Vegas Sun, advertised rooms at Palace Station and the Golden Nugget for an average $70 a night, Terrible’s for $86, the Tropicana for $138, the Stratosphere for $189, the Riviera for $297 and the Las Vegas Hilton for $620.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said CES is the opening salvo of a busy convention barrage for 2010.
The city will play host to 11 conventions with more than 25,000 people in the first quarter of the year, the top six of which are expected to draw 400,000 visitors and provide an economic boost of an estimated $620 million.
After CES leaves town, Las Vegas will play host to the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show and its expected 45,000 delegates; the National Association of Homebuilders (55,000 people), the World Market Center Las Vegas Market (50,000), the World of Concrete show (65,000) and MAGIC International (70,000).
Las Vegas ranks atop the Tradeshow Week 200 list for the largest conventions and shows, a position it has held for 15 years.
The city also gets a non-convention boost on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7, and Chinese New Year, which falls this year on another popular Las Vegas date, Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.