Exclusive: Trade Show Talk With ALHI’s Michael Dominguez

May 21, 2024

After taking the stage at Connect Spring Marketplace 2024 in Las Vegas, Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI) President Michael Dominguez joined us in our podcast booth on the show floor at the Venetian Convention & Expo Center to share his experience as the leader of a global sales organization for independently operated or owned hotels and resorts, cruise ships and destination management companies. 

With more than 250 members, ALHI oversees a wide range of luxury brands – ranging from the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii. AHLI’s member hotels touch a bit of everything in the event sector, including association, corporate, trade show, incentives, business events and meetings. 

On April 2, ALHI acquired 62ABOVE, a San Diego-based marketing agency, to expand its range of services for its hotel members and luxury clients who need a resource for strategy, creative development, paid media, public relations, social media and more. 

For those who don’t know Dominguez or haven’t heard him speak at an industry event, it only takes a few minutes to get a sense of his personality and dedication. “I always feel we have a responsibility … what we learn and what we see, we need to be bringing not only to our clients but also the industry,” Dominguez said. “If we can help the industry be stronger, it’s our responsibility to do that.”


What does the event landscape look like from the hotel perspective? Read eight highlights from our conversation or listen to our full interview with so many more takeaways here.

1.        Don’t get sucked into the narrative: Three years ago, the narrative was that our industry was never getting back to where it was. We were never going to hug or shake hands again. You almost start to believe it because you keep on hearing it. Sometimes we get stuck on where we are for too long. Understand where you are isn’t where we are going to be.  

2.        Hotel rate forecast: When I get asked the question: “When are rates going to come down?” the answer is never. But the rate of growth is slowing, and that’s encouraging for everyone. Rates will still be compressed. We don’t have a lot of full hotel inventory. In the trade show market, I think it’s going to be even more compressed for a period of time because there are a lot of renovations and expansions at convention centers. It’s pulling out some major inventory. It’s going to compress the market for a short time, but it will be a huge benefit to the market in a few years. Right now there will be tightness with no relief as we continue to see a growth in attendance. That tells me that we are an industry that is pretty strong right now and very stable.  

3.        Occupancy outlook: Right now it’s sitting right under 64%. Our record was 66%. The forecast is 64% for the next couple of years. That looks like we are going to be flat, but we tend to forget that we have 2.5% of new inventory coming in, which means we are growing at a modest pace. If there’s anything that changes that metric, it’s the fact that we are still 20% down in international visitors to the U.S. We are getting to these numbers without international visitors being at 100%. That tells me we can have a little softness here, and we are still going to be really stable. 

4.        F&B: What’s trending? Mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. I know it’s been written about, but I think the piece that people are missing is when you look at a recent Gallup poll, there’s been an increase of 18 points since 2018 of 18-34 year-olds who believe any drinking is detrimental to their health — even moderate drinking. [In fact, 52% of young adults aged 18-34 reported in 2023 they believe that moderate alcohol consumption was detrimental to their health.]  As an industry, we still plan receptions like it’s 1999. We have to be better about that. Every beer has a nonalcoholic option. That wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t a desire or need. I think the events side has been slow to get that to the table. That’s how you become inclusive.

5.        Frictionless experience: We expect it because that’s what we live in our lives. I tell our team … we live in an on-demand society. I can get what I want, where I want it and how I want it. We still tend to be an industry that tries to tell people how they are going to buy it, and that’s where we’ve got to be better. We say ‘can you be frictionless at every step of the journey?’ That’s what hotels, especially the luxury segment, are trying to deliver. During the pandemic, the focus was on how we meet. Now, it’s about why we meet. It’s about the experience and engagement now. 

6.        Incentive meetings are roaring back. That is healthy for our industry. (But it also means more competition for hotel availability for corporate and association clients.)

7.        Associations have come off the sidelines. Associations were on the sidelines for an extra year. Associations are booking again, and that’s adding to the compression, especially for larger trade shows. That’s probably the No. 1 shift: Associations were lagging well behind 2019, and they woke up one day and realized they needed to go live. They hadn’t even thought about 2023 or 2024. We are starting to see every segment trigger at the same time. 

8.        Walk into AI, don’t run. I see a great opportunity around the marketing perspective. I think automated vs. generative AI will have a bigger impact on our lives — by far. We are using a  tech right where we are sending event registration with an AI tool that does an analysis behind the scenes of when you typically open emails from us, and it will deliver the email to you at the most opportune time for you. We tested this recently, and we had an open rate of almost 80% and a click-through rate in the 70% range. We all know that doesn’t happen, so that was a really great test of AI. We have never seen that kind of response for an event communication. I’m a huge fan of Microsoft Co-Pilot. Ask Co-pilot to pull out the 10 biggest trends from this Excel spreadsheet, and you can start a PowerPoint presentation with those 10 trends. Think about how much more efficient we can be. 

Want to know more? Dominguez shared two cautions for AI, why Bitcoin is to blockchain like ChatGPT is to AI, the challenge ahead for water and energy needed to power data centers for AI vs. sustainability goals, and what he’s watching as he leads AHLI in 2024. Listen here.


Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE, listen to our latest podcast HERE and engage with us on LinkedIn!

Add new comment

Partner Voices
One of the most iconic names on the Las Vegas Strip just got an upgrade. Mandalay Bay has everything that your business needs from a refreshed convention space designed to inspire productivity and creativity, to an impressive selection of world-class restaurants and amenities. If you're looking for a venue that's both inviting and innovative, you have to be here. New Wave Experiences Mandalay Bay continues to invest in a new wave of enhancements both in the convention space and within the resort as a whole. New restaurant openings including Orla by Michael Mina, drawing inspiration from the award-winning chef’s childhood in Egypt and with flavors and décor inspired by the spices found in markets common to coastal Mediterranean towns, as well as Caramá by Wolfgang Puck, bringing the essence of Italy and spirit of Wolfgang into one concept, are recent additions. The Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas also experienced a recent remodel of all 424 rooms. Swingers, a high-end, adults-only golf and entertainment concept will debut in Fall 2024. Enhanced Technology Creating a truly effective conference venue requires careful thought into what a business needs: the right technology, capacity, and inspiration to bring ideas to the next level. As part of the resort’s refresh, Mandalay Bay implemented state-of-the-art technology upgrades, installing cutting-edge Cat6A Ethernet cabling throughout the convention center. This advancement doubles the frequency of data transmission, enabling lightning-fast speeds up to 9400% faster. The convention center now boasts 11 dynamic digital walls, spanning up to 24' x 13', strategically positioned for brand placements, sponsorships and targeted event messaging. Additionally, attendees can benefit from 20 double-sided 55" mobile flexible display units, facilitating effortless navigation to meeting rooms and events. RFID locks were installed on all meeting room doors, and over 200 motion detection cameras have been placed throughout the space. Refreshing New Design & Fine Art The newly remodeled convention space provides a bright and vibrant atmosphere that complements Mandalay Bay's tropical-inspired brand. Featuring white-washed walls and ceilings adorned with bold floral patterns in cerulean and coral tones, the space is complemented by warm walnut accent walls. In addition to the redesign of all pre-function spaces, meeting rooms and ballrooms, Mandalay Bay's 1 million square feet of exhibit space has undergone a rejuvenation, including new paint, covered pillars and relocated strobe lights. Sustainable Spectacles Mandalay Bay is committed to Focused on What Matters and creating more responsible meetings. Refillable water stations all available around the resort, cutting unnecessary plastic usage from single-use bottles. The Mandalay Bay campus’ recent upgrades represent a bold step forward in redefining the Las Vegas experience. With a focus on innovation, sustainability, and unparalleled service, Mandalay Bay sets a new standard for excellence in business hospitality. Whether you're seeking cutting-edge conference facilities, world-class dining options, or simply a luxurious retreat, an unparalleled meeting experience awaits.