Viva Las Louisville! Vegas loss is gain for local convention business


Posted on August 15, 2009 at 6:42 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 13 at 1:55 PM

Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - A Louisville convention official says it's an announcement that will send shock waves through the convention and trade show industry. It may be just one trade show which announced it is moving to Louisville, but even more significant is what city it's leaving, Las Vegas.

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"Trade shows just don't leave Las Vegas," acknowledged an exuberant Jim Wood, "There's been a mass migration of the major trade shows that have gathered in Las Vegas over the last ten to fifteen years. They have built four major convention centers. It's the largest destination in America for conventions."

But Wood had an idea that Louisville could steal some of that business, and 18 months ago, the Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau began wooing the ABC Kids Expo, a national trade show showcasing products for kids.

ABC is less entrenched in Las Vegas, because it's only six years old. But, it's one of the fastest growing trade shows in the country. And, in 2011, it's leaving Las Vegas and coming to Louisville.

"I think we just shook up the world," Wood beamed.

Oddly enough, one factor in the move is not about what Louisville has that Vegas doesn't -- but what Louisville doesn't have that Vegas does.

"You have to walk through major casino halls just to get to the meeting space," Wood said, "to and from, there's an awful lot of distractions there with the shows and everything else. (Trade shows) lose people during the course of the day," he continued.

"And the exhibitors who spend good money to be on the trade show floor, they want to see the buyers, they want to meet with them, they want to write those orders, and so in a lot of cases shows avoid destinations that are too glitzy."

There are some mega conventions and trade shows that Las Vegas hosts that Louisville couldn't. The Las Vegas Convention Center alone has 3.2 million square feet. But if a convention needs 1.2 million square feet or less, Louisville's just fine. Wood says the ABC move will have other trade shows taking notice.

"Wow! A 900,000 square foot show leaving Las Vegas, coming to Louisville Kentucky. What does Louisville have?"

And Wood tells WHAS11's Joe Arnold that as news of this trade show move has leaked in the industry, other trade shows are already calling to find out more.

He says right now Louisville is hosting 7 of the nation's 30 largest trade shows and that the convention bureau is in "significant negotiations" with several other large shows.

In this case what happened in Vegas is not staying in Vegas.