"What Happens in Vegas…": Highlights from the Las Vegas Trek

Over Columbus Day weekend, 42 HBS students and partners embarked on the second annual Las Vegas Trek, sponsored by the Hospitality and Travel Industry Club. What follows is an account of the “official” Trek activities; for anything else that might have happened in Las Vegas… well, you will just have to join us next year to find out.

Trading in a rainy New England weekend for sunny weather in the high 70s, Trek participants visited Sin City from October 8 to 10 to learn first-hand about the hotel, gaming, and restaurant industries, in the city with 18 of the 20 largest hotels in the world.

The Trek officially kicked off Saturday morning with a backstage tour of the latest Cirque Du Soleil show, KE, at the MGM Grand. Company Manager Calum Pearson led the group on an hour-long tour of the 1,950-seat theater, discussing the history of the show, his business strategy, and the rewards and challenges of managing his company of performers.

Next, Trek participants transferred to the Rio Hotel and Casino for a back-of- the-house tour led by David Patent, assistant general manager of the hotel and graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Afterward, the group met with executives from Harrah’s Entertainment, including several HBS alumni, to learn about the hotel and gaming industries as well as about Harrah’s specifically.

This was followed by the Trek’s keynote speaker event featuring Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which owns the Venetian Hotel and Casino, among other properties. Mr. Adelson spoke to Trek participants about trends and opportunities in hospitality and gaming, highlighting his latest venture-the Cotai Strip mega-tourism development in Macao-and career opportunities for HBS graduates in this new venture. The first day of the Trek concluded with a group dinner followed by an outing to OPM Nightclub at Caesar’s Palace, where participants let loose on the dance floor or at the blackjack tables on the casino floor after a long day of great presentations.

The second day began with backstage tours of two top Las Vegas restaurants- Mesa Grill, owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, and Sushi Roku, a branch of the famous California sushi restaurant. General Managers Corey Nyman and Kenji Tamida led Trek participants on tours of the restaurants and their kitchens, followed by food sampling and a discussion of the locations’ opportunities and challenges, as well as general trends in the restaurant industry. After these restaurant tours, the group transferred to Mandalay Bay for a tour of the spa at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay.

That evening, official Trek activities concluded with an alumni networking reception at the Foundation Room, a private club on the Penthouse level of Mandalay Bay, owned and operated by the House of Blues. There, Trek participants met with prominent alumni living in the Las Vegas area, representing a number of different industries.

Overall, this year’s Las Vegas Trek was a big success. The 42 participants left with a better understanding of and contacts in the hotel, gaming, and restaurant industries, and also deeper friendships with fellow RCs and ECs. We hope to see you on the Trek next year!