, , , , ,

CONNECT ASSOCIATION MAGAZINE – Talking Tahoe with Caesars Entertainment VP Jordan Clark

Had Jordan Clark not pursued a career in hospitality management, he likely would have become a teacher. Clark, vice president of sales for Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment, is always looking for ways to educate the next generation of hospitality industry professionals.

A former Mentor of the Year supporting students at the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, Clark also serves as a member of the international advisory board for the Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Hospitality and Service Management, his alma-matter.

In his current role with Caesars, Clark oversees groups sales for 38 Caesars hotels across the country including locations in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Las Vegas; Lake Tahoe, California; New Orleans; and Tunica, Mississippi.

Earlier this month, Clark and his team hosted a two-day education conference at Lake Tahoe properties, Harrah’s and Harveys, for nearly 100 planners from across the country. The conference featured national speakers who shared inspiration and information pertinent to industry professionals while showcasing Caesars’ meeting capabilities and resources in action.

Connect sat down with Clark to get his perspective on Lake Tahoe as a destination, how Caesars sets its meeting business apart and why gaming destinations have appeal for a broad cross section of groups.

How do you characterize the meetings market for Tahoe?

Lake Tahoe was an incredible incentive destination back in the day [Rat Pack era of the early ’60s], and those days are returning. It’s a new famous place to be, right? Skiing as well as summer tourism here are having a resurgence, and things are coming back.

We’re seeing a sizable number of incentive trips around 20-40 people, especially from surrounding tech and startup companies in Reno and the nearby San Francisco Bay area. The association business is also a good market for us in Tahoe, which seems to run in the 150- to 400-person range.

How does Caesars fit into that?

We do a good job at meetings here because we have the two properties. Keeping up with the product is paramount. We’ve put nearly $11 million into Harrah’s recently to keep the product fresh: Our Special Events Center received a $4 million renovation, and we’ve spent more than $6 million dollars [renovating] guest rooms here. We also have plans to continue renovations next year [at Harveys].

What trends you are seeing in how groups use space?

There are a lot of different community aspects going on in the meeting rooms. The formats are different; we’re finding more frequent, shorter breaks throughout the day rather than longer breaks. And we’re doing more collaborative sessions, which is an interesting thing from a setup standpoint. Planners are looking to provide a collaborative working environment for people when they are here, in the same space, because we’re virtual so much of the time. We still need that time together, to come together.

Some organizations are also challenged with not having a budget to do big gala dinners or big, fancy meals at events. They want to have a productive gathering during the day and have an awards lunch instead of an awards dinner.

Why does a gaming environment provide utility for groups who may be ambivalent to casinos?

I think one of the things that attracts people to the casino side of it is we have so many different customer segments. Our offerings tend to remain incredibly relevant all the time. You can’t survive on gaming alone. You’ve got to have great entertainment.; you’ve got to have great dining, shopping, skiing and water sports; and you’ve got to have great meetings.

How do Caesars properties differentiate on the meeting side?

We’ve put ourselves on the map as one of the premier meetings organizations out there to help people. We’ve earned our reputation with customers because of our flexibility.

The first thing that stands out is we have one leadership structure. That’s different. If you go to our competitors, you’ll find one leader for food and beverage, one leader for conventions, one leader for sales and one for AV. All those people are individually smart and get along well, but they each have a different expectation of what the customer experience should be. That’s when you get into [comments from planners like], “My sales manager sold me this, but you’re telling me you can’t do that?”

Why does that model work well for customers?

We spend all our time trying to find things that make it easy for customers to do business. We have one contract. You can book a meeting here; you can have your dinner at Friday’s Station Steak & Seafood Grill [at Harrah’s]; you can have your closing reception at 19 Kitchen & Bar [at Harveys]. It’s all in one contract, one contact and one F&B minimum.

I have a sales force of 145, and 80 of them work out of their homes. They are in the cities in which our customers are located. The reason for that is because they can build better relationships.