More tourists visiting Strip, spending less


Las Vegas visitor counts are starting to show a pattern.

Tourist volume increased 1.9 percent through the first six months of the year. Through June, the average daily room rate is up 0.5 percent, the first time since December 2007 the figure has shown an increase on a year-over-year basis. However, while people are coming to the Strip, they're not spending as much as they once did.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority released the monthly tourism numbers Thursday, and for the 10th straight month, visitor volume into Las Vegas has either increased or matched the prior year levels.

In Las Vegas, 3,106,965 visitors arrived during June, a 4.3 percent increase compared with 2,980,122 visitors in June 2009. For the first six months of the year, more than 18.5 million visitors came to Las Vegas.

However, convention attendance was down 1 percent in June and is off 4.1 percent for the year. Gaming revenues in Clark County were off 6.9 percent during June and less than 1 percent for the first six months of the year.

"Until we start seeing some positive indications on all the metrics that we use, we're hesitant to say that we are in a complete recovery," convention authority research manager Kris Tibbs said. "It's encouraging when you have 10 straight months of positive or flat visitor numbers. That's a good sign."

CB Richard Ellis analyst Jacob Oberman told the real estate firm's clients that convention attendance, while down year-to-date, is actually up by single-digit percentages when March, April and May's figures are combined.

A rebound in the stock market, cheaper rates, the opening of CityCenter's Aria and flooding in Nashville, Tenn., during the spring that caused some groups to switch meetings and trade shows to Las Vegas all helped to boost the Strip's convention numbers.

When reporting second-quarter earnings earlier this month, casino operators with large convention businesses, such as MGM Resorts International, said bookings have increased for the later part of 2010 and into 2011.

"The increased group demand for the back half of this year is undoubtedly positive as Las Vegas can fill more of its midweek rooms with stronger rates," Oberman said in a report co-authored with Brent Pirosch.

During June, citywide room occupancy was 82.1 percent with the average daily room rate at $89.54, which was 6 percent higher than a year ago.

The encouraging sign, according to Tibbs, was that occupancy remained relatively flat despite the city having some 7,500 more hotel rooms in June, compared with the same month a year ago.

Room occupancy was 80.3 percent for the first six months of the year, which is down 2.4 percent from the same six months of 2009.

However, occupancy continues to be significantly higher than the U.S. national average of 56.4 percent.

Airline travel into Las Vegas is down 3 percent through June, but the figure continues to be off-set by daily automobile traffic, which is up 2.9 percent through the first six months of the year.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.

 

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