HD Expo Sees Slight Attendee Uptick at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas

May 19, 2013

It's difficult to stay at an average hotel after a trip to HD Expo, the annual gathering for the hospitality design industry that took place May 15–17 at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Where else would you see a golden tree of crystal chandeliers, entire bedrooms decked out in silk and satin and flower walls that make you pinch the petals to see if they're real?

"This year, I can say for certain that the hotel industry is picking up," said Liz Sommerville, group show director for Nielsen Expositions, which runs the show. "The amount of new builds is growing, and renovations, that have always been a savior in our industry, are also going strong."

The show attracted more than 7,000 attendees, up about three percent, compared with last year, featured 746 exhibitors, 253 of which were first time, and spanned 247,000 square feet, on par with last year.

Sommerville noted that the level of expectations in the industry is rising, forcing even mid-tier hotel to invest in higher-level amenities.

Premium hotel brands are starting to aggressively drive rate increases, especially in top markets, such as New York and Chicago. "It is surprising how the rates went from one level to another very quickly,” Sommerville said.

When it comes to renovations, Sommerville sees a lot of attention devoted to common areas, reflecting a growing trend to draw guests out of their rooms and offer them a comfortable place to catch up on email, enjoy a drink or just be around other people.

"This shared experience makes the hotel seem more inviting and welcoming," she added," and that hopefully brings repeat business."

Exhibitor Beth Santarelli with LDF Silk knows about revamping lobbies and restaurants first hand, as she sees the growing number of orders for her wall-mounted plant designs and floral accents.

"We've been very busy," Santarelli said. "The hotel industry went through a slump, just like the rest of the economy, and now they are panicking because they've gone years without updating and now they have to do it fast."

She added she was pleased with the show and said that their company collected more qualified leads than last year.

Shrinking lead times and multiple projects going on at once also are a reality for attendee Maggi Napier with Project Dynamics Inc, a hospitality procurement company. 

"We come here looking for pretty much everything," Napier said. "We've been really busy in the hospitality right now, but high-end residences are also going well. Hotels, though, are revamping guest rooms, expanding and doing new builds."

Napier sad she comes to show to fill her inspiration box with ideas on how to do projects they haven't done before and learn how items like an iron curtain she found at this show can fit into a design vision, all while being on budget and within code.

With new materials and applications, it's possible to have custom-made elements that completely transform a space without breaking the bank. "Budgets are not what they used to be," Napier said, "but we now can have custom things done within budget."

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