LAS VEGAS -- The 2012 International CES is the place to be if you love technology, but it's not so great if you have an aversion to traffic, congestion, and throngs of people. The biggest tradeshow in the Americas is expected to draw at least 140,000 exhibitors, speakers, and attendees this year.
The crush of people at this technology tradeshow has already made everything from getting a cup of coffee to hailing a cab an exercise in frustration. A four-mile cab trip from a hotel to the Las Vegas Convention Center took more than an hour.
The CES is so big that it spills beyond the Convention Center to the adjacent Las Vegas Hilton and extends several blocks to the Venetian. In all, 3,100 exhibitors take up more than 1.85 million square feet of exhibit space. Along with the official exhibit halls and displays, there are "hot products and cool companies" showcased in freestanding tents outside the main venues. Frankly, there is so much to see that it is impossible to see it all.
Click the image below for a slideshow of the early traffic today -- before the tradeshow actually got started.
Is it the consumer -- or the crowd -- show?.
Photo by Curt Harsch
Jeremy Handel, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said the CES will pump about $150 million to $160 million into the local economy. And many things, including room rates, go for a premium this week. One Las Vegas resident looked over a restaurant menu last night and asked, “What is this? Same food, CES pricing?”
The flow of cash is a welcome shot in the arm for Las Vegas and the rest of Clark County, whose housing market has taken one of the nation's steepest declines in the past few years on what has seemed like an unending stream of foreclosures.
Las Vegas doesn’t reserve its welcome mat for high rollers these days. It opens its arms to anyone willing to spend a few dollars, even if that means $20 at the penny slot machine.
The CES economic impact isn't limited to Nevada, either. Janice and her Jack Russell terrier, Chloe, came here all the way from San Diego -- not to attend the show, but to make some rent money. She is driving one of the shuttle buses that run continually from the Convention Center and adjacent venues to the official CES hotels, which seem to include just about every major venue in town.
Hotels, restaurants, retailers -- every business in town is trying to entice CES visitors. And back at the tradeshow, the exhibitors are trying to outdo one another in getting the attention of attendes, from the buyers for major retailers like Wal-Mart to venture capitalists and reporters.
And there are the usual weird tradeshow activities, like people walking around with flower pots on their heads.
More companies than you might expect turned to celebrities (or so-called celebrities) for endorsements. Paltalk, a provider of software and technology for real-time, rich media, interactive social networking, is spending its marketing money to bring the retired NBA player Dennis Rodman to the show. Zeikos USA, which makes, among other things, headphones for portable entertainment, is bringing Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi from Jersey Shore. TOSY Robotics JSC, a Vietnamese manufacturer of robots and high-tech toys, is paying Justin Bieber to attend.
There’s no argument that some people like celebrities, however you define the term. But some people will probably just see them as more people attracting bigger crowds at an already crowded show. But who's complaining? There are always those penny slots nearby.