Stephanie Selesnick meets MGM Resorts International’s executive director of city-wide sales, Steve Walker (pictured)
Steve Walker is the executive director of city-wide sales for MGM Resorts International. He began his career in Philadelphia before moving to Las Vegas in 2001 as director of sales at the Sands Expo. He has been with MGM Resorts since 2009 where he led the sales efforts at both Mandalay Bay and Bellagio before taking on his current role. He’s married to wife Lori, and they have a son and a daughter.
I thought Steve would be an interesting person to interview as he’s a US exhibition/hospitality executive who is relatively new to the international side of the business. Before his first international event in London in 2019, the UFI Global CEO Summit, US-based events including SISO, IAEE, and others, were his ‘normal’ for over 20 years.
Since then, he’s been to the UFI CEO Summit in Rome and the UFI Global Congresses in Bangkok, Thailand (2019) and Rotterdam, Netherlands in November this year.
SS: What are some learnings you’ve gained since attending international industry events?
SW: For me personally, it’s great to visit other countries I’ve never been to, and it opened my eyes to international organisers and how they work. It’s different than in the US. Since our company continues to branch out internationally, it’s been interesting to learn about different exhibition business models, including the German Messe model of being both a show organiser and venue owner.
Just as when I started 20 years ago in the US, it takes time to develop relationships – the more people see you at these events, the more recognisable you become, and the deeper the relationships that develop. It’s a process and takes time. Patience is very important. Additionally, being from Las Vegas and the global recognition the city enjoys has helped when meeting people at international events.
I also knew a few people from the US (including you) and the UFI team were great about introducing me to other attendees.
SS: If someone in our business from the US is planning to take their business international, what are a couple of things you would advise them to do?
SW: One of the great things about going to UFI’s events is that there are several consulting firms there, who can really help you expand to different regions of the globe. They can also help launch shows or other businesses. One can lean on these folks to help guide the way. They are always very interested in what’s going on within our portfolio.
SS: MGM Resorts International is looking to branch out to Japan. Can you share anything about it?
SW: We’re really excited about the new integrated resort opportunity with our joint-venture partner ORIX in Osaka, Japan. Osaka’s selection of the MGM-ORIX consortium marks an important step in MGM’s long-term bid to develop one of Japan’s first integrated resorts.
SS: What’s your best experience been to date travelling overseas for business?
SW: Coolest thing ever was meeting the Pope at the UFI Global CEO Summit in Rome pre-pandemic. Memorable doesn’t even come close! Having these kinds of opportunities doesn’t happen when you sit home at your desk.