Northern Nevada firms boost holiday-party plans |

Northern Nevada firms boost holiday-party plans

Anne Knowles

Are local businesses playing Santa Claus or the Grinch this holiday season?

According to some local casinos, which are the go-to party place for many companies, bookings are picking up.

“The corporate community is out and about and doing more, having more parties and spending a little more,” says Rick Murdock, vice president, casino marketing and sales at the Eldorado Resort Casino in Reno. “They started back last year.”

Murdock attributes the boost, in part, to more businesses in the area, either relocating here or local startups getting off the ground.

“We’re seeing smaller, intimate groups.”
Kimberlee Tolkien

“There is definitely an uptick in northern Nevada,” says Murdock. “A lot of things speaking to better days ahead because of businesses moving here.”

Businesses are opening their wallets a little wider, too, says Pat Flynn, executive director of Hotel & Sales at Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno.

“Last year things started picking up. 2013 was up over 2012. We’re seeing a good year-over-year trend and for more than just one year, which is really positive,” says Flynn. “And companies are spending more. In 2008, 2009, 2010, they still had parties but they were spending $2 less per person. Both those gauges are good.”

In its annual survey on holiday parties, global outplacement and business coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. found that 64 percent of companies hosted holiday parties in 2013, up slightly from 62 percent in 2012. Results of its survey for 2014 are expected to be released this month.

But the kind of parties has changed somewhat.

“We have seen a fairly steady booking pattern, but big, giant parties are not as prevalent as they used to be,” says Kimberlee Tolkien, assistant general manager, the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno. “We’re seeing smaller, intimate groups.”

That’s part of the appeal of the casinos. Most can offer a wide variety of venues, from ballrooms that can accommodate hundreds to small private dining rooms, as well as a menu of ways to celebrate, like a massage or show in addition to dinner and an overnight stay.

“It really runs the gamut, everything from spa days to gift certificates to big ballrooms,” says Tolkien.

And casinos often make it easy. Businesses book it and the resort does the rest.

“We do some corporate parties and we would love to do more, but a lot of companies go straight to the casinos,” says Cassie Viola, an event planner with Take the Cake Events, a professional event planner in Reno. “It’s easy to go the casinos, and they do everything.”

Viola says she hasn’t seen a significant increase in inquiries or a request for quote on holiday parties this year.

Neither has Red Carpet Events & Design, a party planner in Sparks which launched in 2008, the year before a major national bank was caught in a controversy, spending big on Las Vegas parties after getting bailed out by the government.

“After that, corporations didn’t want to be involved in anything frivolous,” says Nichols. “People are cautious still and they got out of the habit. It’s kind of hard to put (parties) back as line item on the budget.”

But Nichols is optimistic because the year ahead is looking much better.

“We’ve seen a big difference in numbers since April,” says Nichols. “We already have more on the books for 2015, even 2016. Everyone feels it’s going to be different.”