Jerusalem tourism summit honors Sheldon Adelson

Economic crisis should not be a reason for despondency but a reason for action, says business magnate and philanthropist.

By
May 29, 2013 00:53
4 minute read.
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat presents award to Sheldon Adelson and wife Miriam.

Sheldon Adelson with wife & Nir Barkat 370. (photo credit: Michal Fattal)

Sheldon Adelson – the globally respected tourism icon and chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation – was honored on Monday at the Second Jerusalem International Tourism Summit, held at Teddy Hall in the Jerusalem International Convention Center.

Adelson, who developed the integrated resorts concept that enables convention participants to have assorted shopping, dining, entertainment, gaming and other facilities all under one roof, without having to leave the hotel, was singled out not only for his achievements in the tourism industry but also for the boundless philanthropy that characterizes him and his wife, Miriam.

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Before the ceremony, Adelson participated in a “fireside chat” with broadcast journalist Michael Greenspan, who was also master of ceremonies on the opening day of the tourism summit.

Greenspan wanted to know what had prompted Adelson in the direction of integrated resorts, and perhaps of greater significance, how he had dared the risk of taking his enterprise to Asia, where business practices and culture are so different from those of North America.

Adelson reiterated a philosophy espoused a little earlier in the morning by Las Vegas Sands Corp. president Michael A. Leven, who spoke of the importance of cooperation between the public and the private sectors.

Tourism is tied to the development of the economy and is an integral part of a peaceful world, said Leven, underscoring that tourism creates jobs and taxes.

An economic crisis should not be a reason for despondency but a reason for action, he said, adding that one of the answers to economic growth is a partnership between the public and private sectors. The government should not only take dollars from business, but should work with companies to create ongoing employment, Leven insisted.



Las Vegas Sands had such a partnership with the government of Singapore in Marina Bay, creating 10,0000 permanent jobs and 20,000 indirect jobs, he said. It could not have happened without government support and Adelson’s vision, with the main component of the success stories of Las Vegas Sands investments in both Macau and Singapore being mutual trust, Leven declared.

Adelson has been challenging the status quo in the tourism world for a long time. Even before 1979, when he founded COMDEX (Computer Dealers Exhibition), a computer expo held in different parts of Las Vegas, he was the biggest customer on the Las Vegas Strip.

He produced a show in 1978 that he moved from city to city, and after doing a little research he realized that people attending these shows wanted to have fun at night, but wanted it to be available without them having to leave the hotel. He brought the show to Las Vegas, where everything was close at hand, and saw a 50 percent spike.

The trend continued the following year, and Adelson knew that he was on to something.

“People who go to conventions want to have fun at night. They want entertainment, restaurants and variety,” he said.

It was obvious to Adelson – who started working as a boy, and who has been in business for 58 years – that what was needed was a combination of attractions that come under the heading of integrated resorts.

What is essential is a large space that can house all the facilities for a combination of convention events.

Adelson knew in his heart that if Las Vegas could be picked up and put on a plane and flown over to Asia, it would succeed. Since he couldn’t do that, he used the Las Vegas prototype to build in Asia.

In Macau, he said, there was already a culture of gambling, but they didn’t understand that you need to bring in other tourism for shopping and sight-seeing.

In a partnership between the public and private sectors, the public sector is responsible for building infrastructure, roadways and subways, said Adelson, who will turn 80 in August.

When Greenspan made a couple of pointed references to Adelson’s age, Adelson at first said that 80 wasn’t old, and when Greenspan said something about his soon being 80, a straight-faced Adelson corrected him and said 60.

He already has plans for large-scale projects in Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan, but is more likely to start building 12 3,000- room properties in Madrid.

The Spanish government is very supportive, and a name has already been coined for the venture, which will be known as Euro Vegas. If it goes ahead, it will significantly reduce Spain’s unemployment problems.

Adelson and Greenspan also talked about Adelson’s involvement with Birthright, which by the end of 2012 had brought some 350,000 young adults to Israel.

Some of them were in fact in the audience, and Leven labeled them “real tourists” because none of them had ever been to Israel before.

Adelson and his wife have been Birthright devotees for the past six or seven years, and they’re thrilled about the marriages that have resulted from these trips.

Adelson related that he was approached by a young woman who met her husband on a Birthright trip in 2004. It transpired that they lived five minutes away from each other in California, where they might never have met. For that, they had to come to Israel.

Adelson and Leven were not the only Las Vegas Sands people on stage. Three entertainers from the Venetian Macau resort hotel, dressed in the rich costumes of ancient Venice, gave a spirited tenor performance.

A tough businessman and a philanthropist who has given away hundreds of millions of dollars to causes in Israel, the United States and Asia, Adelson – who has been there and done that – was nonetheless sufficiently emotional, when presented with a sculpture of Jerusalem, to wipe a tear from his eye.


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