With The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas touting a three-night New Year's Eve package at $5,600, it might look as if Las Vegas has suddenly turned back the calendar to the free-spending days of 2006.
But rates posted by a larger swath of resorts suggest that one of the year's strongest nights is still more hung over than geared up for celebration.
An unspecified "very small number" of rooms are available at that price, a Cosmopolitan spokesman said, with the rest of the hotel rooms being turned over to invited guests for a coming-out party.
New Year's Eve falls on a Friday this year, the start of a three-day holiday weekend. Therefore comparisons to recent New Year's Eves, when the holiday wasn't bordered by a weekend, are somewhat cloudy. However, industry observers said average room rates are flat or up slightly from 2009.
A research report by brokerage firm J.P. Morgan, for example, calculated midweek rates were down 22 percent, counterbalanced by a jump in weekend rates of 64 percent during the last week of December, and 2 percent gain on New Year's Eve to $386 a night.
The online booking service Travelocity recorded flat rates averaging $121 a night for the holiday period between Dec. 17 and Jan. 3.
"The hotels are having a hard time getting traction on rates," Hudson Securities analyst Robert LaFleur said. "But around events, we are seeing some price traction."
However, LaFleur added, "We aren't seeing many sellouts."
Although several hotels on Fremont Street show no availability for the holiday weekend, a check of hotel websites shows available rooms up and down the Strip.
By Hudson's formula, rates will decline 29.5 percent during the week leading up to New Year's.
"We wouldn't read too much into this week's results due to the calendar shift and the likely impact holiday pricing and minimum stays around New Year's played on pricing comparisons," the Hudson report noted.
Michael Zalatel, CEO of booking website i4lasvegas.com, said he was surprised to see numerous Strip properties quoting one-night rates as recently as a couple of weeks ago, rather than requiring the previous standard two- or three-night minimums. As of Tuesday, the number of hotels allowing one-night bookings had fallen to a dozen, all off the Strip.
"So that could be a good indicator," he said.
He views rates as flat or slightly up in practical terms because weekends normally command a premium over weekdays. That alone should boost room rates for this New Year's Eve ahead of last year's Thursday night New Year's Eve, he said.
He has not seen strong bookings for Saturday night from people who would like to come to town for the holiday but "avoid the high prices and craziness of New Year's Eve."
With rates in a holding pattern, he said, "Las Vegas is once again a great deal for New Year's Eve from the visitors' standpoint, but it's not so great for the hotels."
With another three weeks to go, "We are seeing a good, steady pace of bookings overall. We expect to sell out most if not all the Strip properties, or at least have occupancy in the high 90s," MGM Resorts International spokesman Gordon Abscher said.
To try to keep people for a long weekend, he said, MGM Resorts has boosted its lineup of events, such as scheduling an Ultimate Fighting Championship event at the MGM Grand on New Year's Day.
A survey of reservation websites showed that many Strip resorts have sold out particular categories of rooms, but only New York-New York listed no rooms at all. The Rio also reported being sold out, as did several hotels on Fremont Street.
The Hard Rock, Mandalay Bay, Stratosphere, Harrah's and Tropicana were among hotels posting rates the same or lower than last year. In some cases, a few top-of-the-chart suites skewed the comparison.
Only The Venetian and Palazzo showed the same rates for all three nights of the weekend.
Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at email@example.com or 702-387-5290.