Survey sees upbeat tourism trend for Las Vegas in 2017

Las Vegas is on pace to break its visitor volume record, and a new survey forecasts the city’s travel fortunes will brighten further.

Trip-booking-agency operator Travel Leaders Group ranked Las Vegas as its fourth-most-booked U.S. destination for 2017.

Travel Leaders Group, which runs company-owned, franchised and affiliated travel agencies in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia, said this month that 32 percent of 1,689 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and travel agents polled listed Las Vegas as their most-booked U.S. destination for 2017.

That ranked Las Vegas it fourth among domestic destinations. Last year, 28 percent of survey participants ranked Las Vegas as the most booked, putting it fifth domestically.

In the 2017 poll, conducted Nov. 17 to Dec. 9, Orlando, Florida — listed as most booked by 37.2 percent of survey takers — and Maui, Hawaii, ranked first and second domestically, as in the 2016 poll. New York — listed as most booked by 32 percent — was third. Alaska cruises, 29.4 percent, was fifth.

Alex Trettin, president of Tacoma, Washington, travel agency Travel Center Inc., said soccer boosted demand for Las Vegas treks at his agency. Trips related to a Las Vegas tournament sold out two months early, he said, leaving a waiting list of 60 teams, up from last year’s 20. This year’s list includes 1,200 travelers.

Trettin also suggested the recent U.S. presidential election might be boosting demand for Las Vegas and domestic locales.

“That shift has a lot to do with hostility toward foreign governments,” he said, “and the tone and tenor of (the election) are making people nervous about traveling abroad.”

Bonnie Lee, CEO of Travel Leaders, an Albertville, Minnesota, trip agency, agreed that the election might be boosting travel, but because of weariness.

“It feels to me like people just want to get away, need to get away from all the craziness in the world — it could be terrorism, it could be the election,” she said, adding that spending on Las Vegas trips at her agency is up 1.5 percent from a year earlier.

“They need to go somewhere allows them not to think about what’s happening in the world and take them out of their reality for just a little bit.”

As Las Vegas demand strengthened, Orlando demand remained solid, showing the Zika virus scare isn’t deterring travelers.

“Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention) announced that Florida is Zika-free, which is good news for many people, including leisure and business travelers,” said Ninan Chacko, CEO of Plymouth, Minnesota-based Travel Leaders Group.

“Our travel agents have worked with their clients to educate them and since our survey results are based on actual bookings, travelers are clearly comfortable booking popular Florida destinations such as Orlando — which wasn’t impacted at all — and Miami.”

The CDC said Dec. 9 that South Miami Beach is not considered an active zone for Zika because no new cases of locally acquired cases of the virus were reported for more than 45 days.

Looking at international travel, Caribbean cruises — listed as most booked by 37.6 percent of survey takers — and Cancun, Mexico, 31.2 percent, were No. 1 and No. 2 on the 2017 bookings list, keeping their 2016 ranks. London, European river cruises and Rome followed.

Paris, which fell out of 2016’s international top 10 partly because of terrorism-stoked traveler fear, ranked seventh for 2017 bookings, the survey said.

Auguring well for Las Vegas and elsewhere, a majority of poll takers expected 2017 travel spending in 2017 to be at least as good as 2016’s — 46.5 percent expected a per-trip increase; 48 percent expected status quo; 5.5 percent forecast lower spending.

In all, 37.8 percent of poll takers said 2017 bookings were ahead of those for 2016; 45.1 percent said bookings were even with a year earlier; 17.2 percent said bookings were lower.

The predicted increases would continue the valley’s travel boom.

In October, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported that 32.5 million people had visited Las Vegas after nine months, 1.8 percent ahead of last year’s record-setting total.

A record 42.3 million people traveled to Las Vegas last year. In January, authority CEO Rossi Ralenkotter projected total visitation of 42.5 million people in 2016.

Contact Matthew Crowley at mcrowley@reviewjournal.com. Follow @copyjockey on Twitter.