The recession has not been kind to the meetings industry, particularly in Las Vegas, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There are some bright spots. Take the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which held one of its best-attended meetings ever in Las Vegas last month.
While the final numbers aren’t in yet, AAOS brought more than 32,000 attendees to its annual meeting at the Sands Expo Center, February 25–28. That’s up slightly from the approximately 31,000 that AAOS drew last year to San Francisco. “San Francisco is always our strongest site, so if we’re up from San Francisco, that’s excellent,” says Karen Hackett, chief executive officer at the Rosemont, Ill.–based association.
Given the state of the economy and more restrictive Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) rules ongiveaways, was Hackett surprised? She didn’t expect the turnout they got. “Was I worried about this meeting? Sure. We haven’t been to Las Vegas in 20 years, so I didn’t really know what to expect going in,” she says. “I knew it would be a strong meeting, I’m just a little surprised that it’ll probably be one of our best, from an attendance standpoint.”
The meeting wasn’t really affected by the new PhRMA code guidelines on giveaways, adds Hackett. Because of the field of medicine that it encompasses, AAOS doesn’t get many exhibitors from the pharmaceutical industry. Most are from medical device companies, which will have their own new rules to follow this July when the updates to the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) code go into effect. The updates will be similar to those made to the PhRMA Code.
“We didn’t get any push-back from our members about the location,” says Hackett. Any negative perceptions of Las Vegas as not conducive to education or as a place for junkets didn’t surface, she adds. “Our members come for the education.”
AAOS didn’t get pushback from exhibitors either. The exhibit floor at the Sands was sold out and revenues from exhibits look to be about the same as last year, says Hackett. Sponsorships were down slightly, but the association does not rely heavily on sponsorships. Most of revenues come from exhibits, she adds.
Las Vegas has been hard hit by the recession. According to a recent article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, 340 meetings have been canceled in Las Vegas in the past 90 days or so. Last month, a comment made by President Obama about corporate junkets to Las Vegas prompted the city’s mayor, Oscar Goodman, to demand an apology, saying that meetings aren’t frivolous and are crucial to the economy.